The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday, and welcome to July! 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. Wednesday, 127,425. 

The number of new cases of COVID-19 in the United States has gone up 80 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database, adding to the country’s record of confirmed cases, which is the worst in the world.


It is a startling explosion of disease that is forcing a bottom-up reevaluation in many states of the wisdom of encouraging Americans to return to work, schools and everyday routines.


COVID-19’s threat is interpreted by some governors as “broader community spread” and not the result of expanded testing alone. State officials, rattled by the idea that containment may become a fantasy, are scrambling to try to salvage some of the hard-won gains they achieved before the summer.


Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSlew of Biden orders on COVID to include resuming WHO membership Biden to sign flurry of executive actions in first hours of presidency COVID-19 is a precursor for infectious disease outbreaks on a warming planet MORE, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned on Tuesday that the United States could see more than a doubling of current tallies of new cases every 24 hours (The Hill). “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day,” Fauci said. “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned.”


The Associated Press: Coronavirus’s spread in GOP territory, explained in six charts.


The Associated Press: As the virus roars back, so do signs of a new round of layoffs.


Testifying before a Senate committee, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while he is optimistic about the potential development of an effective vaccine, a cure for COVID-19 by early next year is “no guarantee” (New York Post).


The nation’s top public health advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration joined Fauci in telling senators during Tuesday’s hearing that they are working on multiple challenges at once, including a plan to build public trust in a future vaccine for COVID-19; guidance to school administrators about which schools should reconsider opening to students in the fall, based on virus activity in their areas; and worries about commercial decisions made by businesses, such as American Airlines, which will resume trying to fill seats to capacity (The New York Times).  


On Tuesday, a wary New York decided to add California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee to a list of states currently contending with growing caseloads of the coronavirus whose visitors are subject to 14 days of quarantine after their arrival in the Empire State. Violators could face fines (CNBC). Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDe Blasio: New York City will run out of COVID-19 vaccine this week without resupply Overnight Health Care: Testing capacity strained as localities struggle with vaccine staffing | Health workers refusing vaccine is growing problem | Incoming CDC director expects 500,000 COVID deaths by mid-February Health workers refusing vaccine is new growing US problem MORE (D) said announcements about his state’s previous plans for safe reopening will be made today.


The New York Public Library’s marble lions, Patience and Fortitude, are adorned with giant blue muzzle coverings to “set an example” (pictured above). On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are doing something similar. Even Donald Trump Jr., face uncovered, joined the chorus during a Fox News appearance on Tuesday. “You know, I don't think it's too complicated to wear a mask,” he said (The Hill).


Prominent GOP leaders who until recently celebrated “individual choice” are now preaching to their constituents to cover their faces to keep themselves and others healthy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMore than half of House GOP commits to vote for resolution calling for Cheney to step down from leadership Wyoming county votes to censure Liz Cheney for Trump impeachment vote Stefanik knocks Albany newspaper over 'childless' characterization MORE (R-Wyo.) are imploring people to put on masks in public spaces, maintain physical distance from others and wash their hands frequently. 


Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring from the Senate and is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, urged President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE to wear a mask in public to help sweep away political stigma about how masks can help curb coronavirus transmissions.


I have suggested the president should occasionally wear a mask even though there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so,” Alexander told reporters. “The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for it to continue,” he added (The Hill).


House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration House GOP lawmaker: Trump 'put all of our lives at risk' Scalise labels Capitol rioting 'domestic terrorism' MORE (R-La.) revised his previous refusal to wear a mask and now says Republicans on a select committee will comply with a requirement for face coverings that was adopted by the Democratic majority. But there are conservative lawmakers, including a few on the House floor on Monday evening, who eschew masks and continue to congregate close together. The shift is especially marked in the Senate, where the GOP majority is in play amid voters’ dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and economic crises, reports The Hill’s Cristina Marcos and Juliegrace Brufke


Fox News personalities joined in this week with some on-air mask boosterism.Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy told his audience on Tuesday that he believes the president should wear a mask to set an example during the pandemic. “Masks Are Great Again,” he quipped during an interview with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielGOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze The Memo: Democrats scorn GOP warnings on impeachment Wave of companies cut off donations — much of it to GOP MORE


It is unclear if Trump, personally reluctant to appear in public in a mask, has been swayed by his children or fellow Republicans who now see face coverings as a tool to unlock the economy and protect health (and potential votes in November). 


"I think they work,” Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityAlmost 7 in 10 oppose Trump pardoning himself: poll Can the GOP break its addiction to show biz? Prosecutors say man who brought weapons to Capitol carried list of 'good guys' and 'bad guys' MORE said on Monday during his prime-time program. “If I wear a mask, and if it opens up baseball, concerts, NFL football, I’d rather wear a mask to go to the game to protect grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and watch the ball game” (The Hill).


Slate: GOP does an about-face on masks.


The Washington Post: Republican leaders now say everyone should wear a mask.


The Hill: After six months, failures outweigh successes for U.S. coronavirus responses.


BBC: COVID-19 is not the last pandemic. There’s a new swine flu in China that researchers fear could adapt to human-to-human transmission. 


The Hill: Based on health and COVID-19 criteria, the European Union announced it will bar travelers from the United States as the 27-nation bloc begins in July to lift restrictions tied to the coronavirus.


The New York Times editorial board: Americans sacrificed to flatten the curve. Their leaders have let them down.





CONGRESS: After a break in the legislative response to COVID-19, Senate leaders and top Trump administration officials indicated plans to move on a new coronavirus response package after the July 4 recess and to have it passed by the month-long August break.


McConnell said on Tuesday that he anticipates that the Senate will take up another package to deal with the COVID-19 response, which he indicated would deal with unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month, liability protections across the board, and increased funding for testing, treatment and vaccine development.


“I think the time to focus on this … is that period in July, which also I think dovetails nicely with the perfect time, to take an assessment of the economy and the progress we’re making on the health care front and see if there is additional assistance needed for our health care providers,” McConnell told reporters.


Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack MORE (R-Mo.) added that lawmakers hope they will “be in the final stages of getting that bill together,” although unemployment benefits are expected to be a major sticking point between the parties. 


The CARES Act, passed in March, included an additional $600 per week in jobless benefits for millions of unemployed Americans, but Republicans have been cool to extending the benefit because they view it as so generous that it has become a disincentive to return to work. McConnell told reporters that while the matter is “extremely important,” it’s a different issue than “whether we ought to pay people a bonus not to go back to work” (The Hill). 


On Tuesday night, the Senate took a surprise step and approved a five-week extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, the small-business loan program, until August 8. The move took place only hours before the program was scheduled to end with more than $130 billion left, and will now head to the House as lawmakers in the lower chamber prepare to depart for the July 4 recess, which will last nearly two weeks (The New York Times). 


In the administration, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE testified to the House Financial Services Committee the administration supports another stimulus package “by the end of July,” pointing to the unemployment benefits and other provisions that expire at the end of the month.


“We have a lot of important features that all come to an end in July,” Mnuchin told lawmakers, adding that the administration wants relief to be aimed at “certain industries that have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.”


Mnuchin was joined at the hearing by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who warned of the economic fallout if businesses are unable to return to relative normalcy in the coming months and if a second wave of the virus forces the rollback of reopenings (The Wall Street Journal).


The Hill: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon the economy will recover.


The Hill: IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told Congress on Tuesday that about 365,000 people did not receive federal direct payments for their children as stimulus payouts, although they qualified. The IRS plans to send the payments this month, he said. Many of the affected recipients receive Social Security benefits, he added. The Washington Post reports that the payments for children became entangled in an online tool for filing for benefits and a much-criticized 48-hour window to do so.





> Bountygate: Fallout continued to emerge on Tuesday following reports that Russia was placing bounties on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, with Democratic lawmakers calling for answers after attending a briefing at the White House that was run by White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAuthor: Meadows is history's worst White House chief of staff Agency official says Capitol riot hit close to home for former Transportation secretary Chao Republicans wrestle over removing Trump MORE rather than intelligence officials. 


Democrats told the former North Carolina lawmaker that Trump should make a statement about the ongoing issue. In his initial reaction to reports by The New York Times and other outlets, Trump called them a “hoax” and indicated that they weren’t credible.”


“These are very concerning allegations and if they’re true, Russia is going to face repercussions,” Rep. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillBelfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington Democrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Pelosi suggests criminal charges for any lawmaker who helped with Capitol riot MORE (D-N.J.) said. “We really pushed that strongly in the meeting.”


During a hastily arranged Tuesday afternoon briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was briefed on the bounties earlier in the day, having said a day before that he was not briefed because the information was not verified. 


“Make no mistake. This president will always protect American troops,” she said.


According to Politico, the White House is working to set up a briefing for Gang of Eight members — congressional leaders, along with chairpersons and ranking members on the House and Senate Intelligence committees — to discuss the bounty situation.


The Hill: Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties.


CNN: The president tweeted late Tuesday night reiterating his plan to veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act if it includes language that requires military bases named after Confederate generals to be renamed.


The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers move to block Trump from pulling U.S. troops from Germany.


2020 POLITICS: Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot, won the Democratic nomination in the Kentucky Senate primary on Tuesday, defeating state Rep. Charles Booker (D) to earn the right to take on McConnell in November. 


McGrath was declared the winner after mail-in ballots were tabulated over the past week following the June 23 election, with some counties announcing their totals on Tuesday. As of Tuesday, McGrath led Booker 45 percent to 43 percent (The Hill).





While Kentucky announced its results, the same cannot be said of New York. A number of key congressional results remain uncalled as the New York City Board of Elections announced that it will not start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until next week. According to The New York Times, Staten Island will start counting on July 6, while the remaining four boroughs will do so on July 8.


The delay in counting those ballots affects the official results in two key races: the contest in the 16th Congressional District between House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelState Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment 2020: A year in photos MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jamaal Bowman, and the 12th Congressional District race between House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyCensus Bureau Director Steven Dillingham resigns What our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot  House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence MORE (D-N.Y.) and Suraj Patel. Engel trails Bowman by 25.1 percentage points, while Maloney holds a slim 1.6 percentage point lead over Patel (The New York Times). 


Elaina Plott, The New York Times Magazine: The fall of Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds MORE, and what came after.


> Biden meets the press: For the first time in nearly three months, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Scalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Sidney Powell withdraws 'kraken' lawsuit in Georgia MORE took questions at a press conference following a speech in Wilmington, Del., saying that the government has a responsibility to protect statues and monuments of historical figures and continuing his criticism of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 


As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, Biden faced few tough questions but said he thinks the federal government has a responsibility to protect historical statues and monuments of figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus. It was not a response in harmony with his activist base.


“The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason trying to take down a union to keep slavery, I think there’s a distinction there,” Biden said. “The idea of bringing down all those Confederate monuments to Confederate soldiers and generals who strongly supported secession and maintaining slavery and going to war to do it, I think those statues belong in museums. They don’t belong in public places." 


“I think with regard to those statues and monuments, like the Jefferson Memorial, there’s an obligation that the government protect those monuments because they’re different,” Biden said. “That’s a remembrance. It’s not dealing with revering somebody who had that view. They had much broader views. They may have had things in their past that were now and then distasteful, but that’s a judgment” (The Hill).


Biden’s presser came amid pressure from the Trump campaign, which has openly wondered in recent weeks when the former vice president would take questions in a standard press conference. Since the pandemic started, Biden has consistently appeared for television interviews. 


The Hill: Biden hits Trump over coronavirus response: “Whatever it is that we're doing now, it's not working.”


The Hill: Biden compiling list of potential Black women nominees for the Supreme Court.


The New York Times: Trump campaign has spent $325,000 on Facebook ads featuring Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE’s page.


Axios: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Pardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office Trump preparing another 100 pardons, commutations before leaving office: reports MORE changes top Trump campaign staff.


The Hill: Democrats seize on Florida pandemic response ahead of general election.


> Primary night: Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes Democrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (D) held off an intra party challenge from progressive Andrew Romanoff in the state’s Senate primary and secured a spot in the general election against Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Colo.).


Hickenlooper won after he limped to the finish line after a series of missteps, including being fined by the Colorado ethics commission for accepting gifts during his time as governor (The Hill). 


The Hill: Colorado GOP Rep. Scott TiptonScott R. TiptonDemocrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Newly elected Colorado Republican wants to carry her gun in the Capitol: report MORE defeated in primary upset.


The Associated Press: Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion.





SUPREME COURT: Justices, who are nearing the conclusion of the term but are expected to hand down decisions after the Fourth of July holiday, have scheduled an additional conference today and will release orders from that conference on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Still awaited: a ruling on Trump’s tax returns and financial records (The Hill).


> Religious schools: In a major decision, justices ruled 5-4 on Tuesday that a Montana tax incentive program that indirectly helps private religious schools is constitutional. The conservative majority on the court ruled that by making state-backed private school scholarships off-limits to parochial schools, the program ran afoul of First Amendment protections for the free exercise of religion, which prohibit the government from treating religious and secular groups differently. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious” (The Hill).


Reacting to the ruling, the White House issued a statement saying the administration “believes that school choice is a civil rights issue, and that no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.


> Trademark law: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 8-1 that online travel agency Booking.com may trademark its domain name as distinct enough to qualify for registration. The decision rejects a sweeping rule pushed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that the combination of a generic term and ".com" cannot be trademarked. Intellectual property law in the U.S. doesn't allow companies to trademark generic terms (The Hill).

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!


Time to update the language of the Constitution, by Richard Albert, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3gdoocT


Russian bounty hunting: Trump's latest scandal, by Stephen Blank, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3ifhPbD


If we don’t act, 2 percent of the people are about to control the other 98 percent, by Michael Flynn, opinion contributor, The Western Journal. https://bit.ly/2NH5jn9


The House convenes at 9 a.m.


The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.


The president will have lunch at 1:15 p.m. at the White House with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen US secretary of State on last day in office equates 'wokeness' with totalitarianism Trump's '1776 Report' released on MLK Day receives heavy backlash MORE


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International: Hong Kong police made its first arrests of protesters on Wednesday after China passed a new security law cracking down on dissent and calls for secession from the mainland. Officers arrested two protesters in Hong Kong for carrying flags and signs calling for Hong Kong’s independence (The Associated Press). 


Officers used a water cannon and tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowds of protesters after the law was passed, which took effect Tuesday night at 11 p.m. local time, shortly before the 23rd anniversary of the handover of the territory from Great Britain to China. Serious offenders of the law could be handed a life in prison sentence, while lesser violations could carry up to three-year prison terms (Reuters).


The United Kingdom announced Tuesday that it will not turn its back on Hong Kong and the commitments it has made to its former colony. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that China “has chosen to break their promises” by implementing the new security law (Reuters). 


Today, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement takes effect in a political and diplomatic environment radically different from the one that brought the three countries together under the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 (The Hill). Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he plans to visit the White House next week to mark the event, flying commercial for his first trip outside of Mexico as president (The Washington Post).





Tech: Facebook announced it is removing groups dedicated to the anti-government boogaloo extremist movement one month after federal officials alleged adherents used the platform to plan the murder of a federal agent. The social media giant cited violations of its policies against organized violence as justification to remove 220 boogaloo Facebook groups and 95 Instagram accounts. The company said 400 additional groups that were tangentially associated with the movement would also be removed (NBC News). Adherents of the loosely organized far-right boogaloo movement support the idea of exploiting unrest to spark a second civil war, drawing the name from a 1980s breakdancing movie and attracting both libertarians and white nationalists (USA Today). ... Google said it will cut off European media companies from a lucrative flow of ad revenues if they follow through with attempts to curb Google’s data collection drawn from their readers. Negotiations continue, but Google holds greater leverage than the publishers because it dominates in both advertising tools and access to advertisers within the $100 billion annual global banner ads market (Reuters). 


➔ Sports: Stars of baseball’s past are calling on Major League Baseball to remove the name and image of Kenesaw Mountain Landis from the annual American League and National League Most Valuable Player awards due to his history with racism. Landis was commissioner from 1920 to 1944, a time when no African American players were involved in the league (Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947). “If you’re looking to expose individuals in baseball’s history who promoted racism by continuing to close baseball’s doors to men of color, Kenesaw Landis would be a candidate,” said Mike Schmidt, a three-time NL MVP winner during his Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies (The Associated Press).


And finally … Carl Reiner, the prolific writer, actor and director (and father of actor and director Rob Reiner and two other children), died Monday night at age 98 after a lifetime of laughter in films and on television. 


Younger audiences knew him in the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies, and older fans loved him as the vain, demanding Alan Brady in the ensemble TV classic, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which spanned five seasons, and in such films as the 1966 comedy, “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming” (The Associated Press).


A minute of video highlights from Reiner’s career, courtesy of CBS Evening News, is HERE.


Reiner’s success and longevity offered decades of opportunities to share advice and humor. “Even failures can turn into something positive if you just keep going,” he once said. “I wrote a television pilot called 'Head of the Family.' CBS didn't want it. It was considered a failure. But we reworked it. A year later, it became 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.' … When asked the best thing I ever did, that was it. I wrote it originally for myself.”