The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 125,803. Tuesday, 126,141.

About the best thing any U.S. official could say about the worsening coronavirus crisis on Monday was that fewer people nationwide appear to be dying — at the moment. With COVID-19, nothing is certain.


Nonetheless, lots more people are contracting the virus in the United States. And it’s getting worse.


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, “Globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up.” He cautioned that even with such prevalent spread, billions of people are still at risk of infection. "This virus still has a lot of room to move," he said. “The virus is spreading aggressively” (The Hill).


Mandatory mask policies are a battlefield for some Americans, but officials in both parties are sounding more and more like evangelists for face coverings, worried that something so simple and potentially lifesaving among asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers has to become second nature.


House Democrats are weighing how to enforce the use of masks while on Capitol Hill. A growing number of senior Republicans, meanwhile, are becoming more vocal in encouraging people to wear face coverings as lawmakers from hot spots continue to flout the recommendations of public health experts (The Hill). 


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE (R-Ky.) made a forceful call on Monday for masks, arguing after many weeks of relative silence on the subject that the basics of battling the coronavirus with “common sense” should be everyone’s responsibility (The Hill).


He did not specifically mention President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE, who has worn a mask but not in public. Vice President Pence and other members of the White House coronavirus task force are now routinely attired with face coverings, which serve several purposes. They set an example, discourage the wearer from touching their nose and mouth with contaminated fingers, remind people to heed social distancing, and serve as a barrier when virus-filled droplets are expelled into the air.


“It's the task of each family, each small business, each employer and all levels of government to apply common sense and make this happen. To name just one example, we must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people," McConnell said.


Jacksonville, Fla., the site of this summer’s upcoming Republican National Convention, on Monday made masks a requirement for indoor settings and public spaces where social distancing is not possible. Florida, which is a must-win state for the Trump campaign, is experiencing record-setting infection rates that make conventions and large indoor gatherings seem like irrationally exuberant risk-taking, according to recent polls and public health experts.


It is unclear how long the Jacksonville mask requirement will be in place. The GOP’s three nights of convention speeches, including the nominees’ remarks, are scheduled for Aug. 24-27 (The New York Times).


While the trend in many parts of the country is toward a growing acceptance of mask requirements as the new normal, the issue is by no means an easy call. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) says he’s received racist death threats in response to the mask order he issued that took effect on Monday (The Hill).


Public persuasion and peer pressure to don masks can be powerful, even within the most individualistic settings in the country. For example, fellow musicians and fans are criticizing country artists who performed at outdoor concerts last weekend where social media pictures showed large, mask-less crowds (The Associated Press).


Younger people are also receiving the message the hard way as their favorite bars and clubs are forced to shutter after reopening because crowds ignored all the save-yourself-and-others guidelines. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Monday announced that restaurants will not reopen for indoor dining this week, as planned. He cited as justification recent scenes from expanded outdoor bar and restaurants, especially at the Jersey Shore, showing packed crowds not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing (NJ.com).


In Arizona, which is under siege with new outbreaks, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close for at least 30 days. Classes at public schools will be delayed until at least Aug. 17. In seven of the past 10 days, Arizona has topped 3,000 new reported coronavirus infections per day. “Our expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse,” the governor said (The Associated Press).


Reuters: California sees a record jump in COVID-19 cases.


The Washington Post: Behind the numbers: A COVID-19 disease tracker created by Johns Hopkins University and used worldwide to assess the pandemic has a story all its own.


In Michigan, at least 95 people (and counting) who visited one bar that reopened on June 8 near Michigan State University tested positive for COVID-19 after socializing in mid-June. Most of the infected people were between the ages of 18 and 23 and the public health department is still doing contact tracing (NBC News and The New York Times).


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenObama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Biden, Harris commend Mondale in paving the way for female VP Mondale in last message to staff: 'Joe in the White House certainly helps' MORE may be sticking close to his Delaware home during his presidential campaign against Trump, but he’s pictured with a mask during events. He plans today to escalate his criticism of the administration’s handling of the coronavirus with a collection of his recommended approaches, organized in the form of a scorecard to be circulated on social media (The Associated Press).


> Treatment: Drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences Inc. will price a typical hospital treatment course of the IV drug remdesivir, which can shorten COVID-19 illness in some severely ill patients, at $3,120 (The Wall Street Journal). The 250,000 treatment courses that the company had donated to the United States and other countries will run out in about a week, and new pricing will apply to the medication when that supply is depleted (The Associated Press).





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SUPREME COURT: Justices are nearing the end of a term full of surprises on major issues they will no doubt confront again. Abortion rights made the headlines on Monday, with the White House calling the court’s ruling “unfortunate.” 


> In a victory for abortion rights advocates, justices ruled 5-4 on Monday to strike down a strict Louisiana law adopted in 2014 that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to send patients to nearby hospitals. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority (NBC News). The ruling will have ramifications far beyond Louisiana (The Hill and The Daily Beast).


The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes: With the abortion ruling, Roberts reasserts his role and the Supreme Court’s independence.


> The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not consider a challenge to new federal death penalty protocols proposed by the Justice Department, clearing the way for the government to resume executions as early as July for the first time since 2003. The court, without comment, declined to take up a lawsuit filed by four death row inmates (The Washington Post)


> Justices on Monday left in place a decision that rejected environmental groups’ challenge to sections of the wall the Trump administration is building along the U.S. border with Mexico. The high court declined to hear an appeal involving construction of 145 miles of steel-bollard walls along the border in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas (The Associated Press). 


> The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the structure of the watchdog Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, is unconstitutional, but justices said the agency can still operate with the president able to fire the director at will. The bureau survives but becomes more immediately susceptible to the president's influence (The Hill). Legal experts say the court’s ruling is important for separation of powers because it chips away at the concept of “independent” executive departments and agencies (Law & Crime).


Trump’s impact on the federal judiciary will be felt for decades. Not since former President Carter has a president appointed as many federal judges at this point in his first term. Trump has appointed 53 judges to the influential Courts of Appeals, the last stop for cases before the Supreme Court, filling 30 percent of its seats with hand-picked conservatives. With lifetime tenure, the judges are shaping rulings and dissents on the Affordable Care Act, abortion and executive power (The Hill). 







CONGRESS: What did the president know, when did he know it, and why didn’t the United States respond to an intelligence assessment that Russia offered money to Taliban militants to kill U.S. forces and coalition partners in Afghanistan? These questions are now part of a full-fledged furor on Capitol Hill. 


Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling on the White House to provide answers after a number of reports revealed that the intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.


At the center of the controversy: a grisly April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to sources cited by The Associated Press and The New York Times.


Trump and his White House team maintain he was not personally briefed by the intelligence community, but the president was given written information about the intelligence gathering describing the bounty scheme as part of a February Presidential Daily Brief prepared for him, according to reporting by The New York Times


The Associated Press: Senior White House officials were aware in early 2019 — a full year before this year’s PDB — that classified intelligence indicated Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans.


Headlining those wanting answers are Republicans who usually keep public misgivings about the administration to a minimum. But the president’s response has only furthered the calls for more answers on the topic after he indicated that he wasn’t briefed on the subject because the reports weren’t credible, with GOP and Democratic lawmakers calling news of the Russian bounties “egregious” and “disturbing,” according to The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel and Olivia Beavers.


“Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me, should have been briefed immediately to the commander in chief and a plan to deal with that situation,” said Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (Texas), the top GOP member on the House Armed Services Committee. 


The Washington Post: Republicans once again face questions about why Trump isn’t tougher on Russia.


The Associated Press: GOP lawmakers urge action after receiving Monday’s Russia-Afghanistan information at the White House.


On Tuesday, the White House will brief a group of House Democrats on the topic, a day after seven House Republicans were briefed, including Thornberry (pictured below), House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse Republicans kick off climate forum ahead of White House summit Overnight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE (Texas), and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Freedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican.


House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House readies for Chauvin verdict House GOP's McClain responds to Pelosi calling her 'that woman' GOP struggles to rein in nativism MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter Monday to Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump alumni launch America First Policy Institute Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE calling for a full House briefing, while Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party 'Building Back Better' requires a new approach to US science and technology Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) made the same request for the two intelligence leaders to immediately brief the upper chamber.


David Ignatius, The Washington Post: Were Trump’s aides too afraid to tell him about the Russian bounties?





> Health care: The House on Monday passed legislation to expand the Affordable Care Act as Democrats look to use the issue as a political tool heading into the November elections just as they did in the 2018 midterms. 


The legislation, which passed in a largely party-line vote of 234 to 179, would increase the 2010 health law’s subsidies that help people afford their premiums and add more federal funding for Medicaid expansion. The vote came days after the Trump administration filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court calling for the health care law to be struck down, a move Democrats said would be even more harmful during the coronavirus pandemic (The Hill).


> Housing: Millions of tenants are at risk of receiving eviction notices in late July as protections from a major coronavirus stimulus program are set to expire. 


As Niv Elis writes, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, signed as the CARES Act in late March, included a moratorium on evictions for tenants in units with federally-backed mortgages or other assistance who were unable to pay rent. But with no agreement in Congress on an extension of the moratorium, families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic may soon have to make new living arrangements.


Reuters: A cash cliff spells trouble for U.S. unemployed, and everyone else.


The Wall Street Journal: The federal Paycheck Protection Program loan window is closing, with $134 billion still on offer.


2020 POLITICS: Primary results are expected to be announced in Kentucky and New York later today in a slew of down-ballot contests, including the Kentucky Senate primary and a number of House races in the Empire State. 


As of Monday night, Amy McGrath led Charles Booker by nearly 2,800 votes (2.6 percent) in the Kentucky contest, with a number of counties having not yet reported any figures as they tabulated the mail-in and absentee ballots that have come in droves due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


McGrath, who has the backing of establishment Dems and has seen big money pour into her coffers, has long been the favorite, but Booker has made a late bid for the Democratic nod to take on McConnell. Booker has seen his campaign buoyed by the protests following the death of George Floyd, leading to a massive turnout from supporters among in-person voters. 


In New York, Jamaal Bowman, a progressive upstart, could finally unseat Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney Carolyn Maloney will face Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority MORE (D-N.Y.), who is seeking a 17th term in office, in the state’s 16th Congressional District. Bowman, who declared victory on Wednesday, leads the longtime congressman 60.7 percent to 35.6 percent. In the 12th Congressional District. Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney Carolyn Maloney will face Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger MORE (D-N.Y.) is holding her own against Suraj Patel, another progressive insurgent who is challenging Maloney for a second straight cycle. As of Monday night, she leads by nearly 850 votes, taking 41.7 percent to 40.1 percent for Patel. 


In tonight’s primary contests, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax This week: Democrats move on DC statehood MORE (D) is slated to face off against progressive former Colorado state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the state’s Senate primary on Tuesday. Hickenlooper is by-and-large the favorite to win the nominating contest, owing to his almost-universal name recognition in Colorado and a $6 million warchest that eclipses that of Romanoff. He also has the backing of Democratic Senate leaders in Washington and outside groups, who are spending heavily to buoy the former governor’s Senate bid. But Hickenlooper’s campaign has also been beset by gaffes and an ethics controversy that have fueled attacks from both Romanoff and Republicans, who are scrambling to hold onto Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE’s (R-Colo.) seat in November (The Hill).


Roll Call: 3 things to watch in Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah primaries Tuesday.


> Map talk: Democrats believe Biden’s campaign should make a concerted effort in the next four months to campaign for a landslide victory against the president in November, both in the popular vote and the Electoral College tally. 


In recent weeks, polls show the Biden campaign with a strong standing in multiple longtime GOP-held states, including Arizona, Texas and Georgia, giving Democrats the opening to make the push for a potential massive win, according to The Hill’s Amie Parnes


“We’re running against a guy who cares deeply about size and numbers,” said one Democratic strategist. “The best way to tell him to go home is with a resounding defeat.” 


However, other Democrats are less concerned with winning big than they are with winning at all and say the requisite 270 electoral votes should be the goal, with anything more being icing on the cake.


The Hill: GOP skeptical of polling on Trump.


The Philadelphia Inquirer. Trump campaign sues Pennsylvania over how to run the 2020 election.


Joshua Green, Bloomberg Businessweek: In a role swap, Trump runs as an outsider, Biden plays incumbent.


On the Republican side, Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo that the president’s flirtations with white nationalism risk causing the GOP long-term damage, with his weekend tweet featuring a supporter shouting “white power” servicing as the latest example.


The tweet drew swift condemnation from Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Tim Scott to participate in GOP event in Iowa MORE (S.C.), the lone black Senate Republican, who called it “indefensible.” Scott’s remarks are emblematic of a broader concern that Trump’s approach to issues of race and identity will prove politically toxic over the long run.


The Hill: Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' MORE's (D-Calif.) star rises after leading police reform push.


The Hill: The Atlanta Hawks basketball team announced it will open its arena as Georgia’s “largest ever” voting precinct later this year.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


John Roberts is no pro-choice hero, by The New York Times editorial board. https://nyti.ms/2BnsMXZ


Russia is testing Trump's reactions, by Janusz Bugajski, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/38bfGsQ 


The House meets at 9 a.m.


The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.


The president will receive his intelligence briefing at 3:30 p.m.


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➔ International: China unanimously passed a new security law on Tuesday to give authorities the ability to crack down on protests in Hong Kong calling for the secession of the former British colony from Chinese control. The move is considered to be the biggest change to Hong Kong since it was handed over from Great Britain to China 23 years ago under the “one country, two systems” doctrine (Reuters). … British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a “disaster” for the United Kingdom as he announced plans to invest the equivalent of $1.2 billion in infrastructure projects, including for new and rebuilt schools, in a bid to kick start the U.K. economy, labeling the effort a “Rooseveltian approach” (The Associated Press). Johnson also called on Britons to become more fit, asserting that Great Britain is “significantly fatter” than other European nations (Politico). … The European Union extended sanctions against Russia on Monday for not abiding by the peace agreement in Ukraine, pushing them for an additional six months. The economic sanctions are aimed at Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors and are now extended until Jan. 31 (The Associated Press). 





State budgets and policing: Ongoing budget woes in major U.S. cities tied to the coronavirus are complicated by the push among Democratic demonstrators and African American advocacy groups to see city officials cut funds for traditional urban policing and redeploy resources to other municipal programs to address racial inequities.  At the same time, cities want Congress to approve federal funding to plug holes in some of the hardest-hit urban budgets as part of a potential stimulus measure to be debated in July.


New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioWhat the statistics show about police shootings and public safety US cities beef up security ahead of Chauvin verdict Yang expands lead in NYC mayor race: poll MORE (D) backs an $87 billion budget, which would take effect Wednesday with City Council approval. The proposed blueprint cuts $1 billion from the New York Police Department (Politico). … Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and the District police chief are wrestling with $15 million in proposed cuts for the Metropolitan Police Department. The slimmed-down spending plan is set to get a first vote on July 7 (WTOP). … The National Council of State Legislatures tracks the proposed and adopted law enforcement changes in each state in a handy database HERE.


➔ Theater: Broadway announced on Monday that all productions will remain closed through the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered all shows since mid-March. In May, Broadway said that all shows would be dark through September, with shows expected to announce plans in the new year on a rolling basis rather than restarting their shows at the same time (Playbill).


And finally … In a sign of normalcy, the Irish once again kissed the Blarney Stone this week, continuing a tradition that has lasted for nearly 600 years, but was interrupted on March 13. 


On Monday, Charles Colthurst, the owner of Blarney Castle, became the first person since the pandemic arrived to lean in to buss the famous rock. Colthurst celebrated the moment by donning a Liverpool Football Club jersey days after the Premier League side won its first league title. 


“There are some very difficult times ahead in the tourism industry but hopefully this is the start of our journey over the coming years to try and grow our visitor numbers back to similar levels before the COVID situation,” Colthurst said (The Associated Press).