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The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday. 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, 129,947. 

 

U.S. coronavirus cases surge as fatalities near 130,000 (The Wall Street Journal). 



America wants to know what’s ahead for students and educators this fall, from kindergarten through college. On Tuesday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE will steer a “national dialogue on safely reopening America’s schools.” The president in April called on schools to reopen, but educators believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the safest option for all young people who want to resume instruction in August and September.

 

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States climb to 2.9 million this week and public health officials point to cavalier and risky behavior by people younger than 40 as a continuing worry for the spread of the virus, parents of grade school and college students are asking similar questions: What’s safe for children (and everyone they’re around), and what steps are possible for families to sustain, especially economically?

 

“There is not a single best answer here,” said former Education Secretary Arne DuncanArne Starkey DuncanCongress has a responsibility to investigate the costs of prolonged school closures The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package For the sake of equity, reopen schools — digitally, with exceptions MORE. “We have to get used to a huge amount of uncertainty.” During a recent interview on the “In the Bubble” podcast with Andy Slavitt, a former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Duncan emphasized his worries about helping youngsters “who are falling behind” educationally because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19. He said some school principals will need to speak with families about whether students can or should come back to school this fall, based on their own unique situations.

 

A group of bipartisan policy leaders published education guidelines in May called #OpenSafely.

 

As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports, public health experts want to see many schools reopen this fall, citing the educational and social benefits to children, but they also argue that reopening classrooms in some regions of the country could require trade-offs now, such as shuttering indoor bars and even some restaurants where the ambiance and customers are contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Some school districts are considering hybrid systems where students are taught in person some days and at home other days. 

 

The Associated Press: Debates turn emotional as schools decide how and if to open.

 

The Washington Post opinion: To reopen schools in the fall, close bars now.

 

Bloomberg News: New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioMacy's will still hold Thanksgiving Day Parade amid pandemic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday New York City to add COVID-19 checkpoints at bridges, crossings MORE (D) said public schools in a city that serves 1.1 million students plan to reopen in September. New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for High Court's COVID-19 decision Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE (D), through his staff, said the mayor’s announcement was “premature” because such a decision is made by state rather than local officials. One major consideration: teachers (and their union). (Today, Gotham moves into phase three of its reopening with expanded outdoor dining, but indoor dining is on pause.)

 

The New York Times: Most universities plan to bring students back to campus. But many of their professors are concerned about joining them.

 

The Associated Press: Amid pandemic, fewer students seek federal aid for college.

 

Trump’s dive this week into questions about returning students to classrooms will raise eyebrows, in part because his advice shifts and is so frequently contradicted by scientific research. The president last week said the coronavirus “will disappear,” disputing every federal public health official on his own White House coronavirus task force. On Saturday, he claimed erroneously that 99 percent of confirmed infections are “totally harmless,” an assertion disputed by physicians and researchers worldwide who say it is possible that patients who recover from even mild cases of the coronavirus could experience long-term health effects and that one of the puzzles of COVID-19 is the unpredictability of who experiences mild infections and who becomes gravely ill (Science News).

 

The Associated Press: Trump’s COVID-19 statements do not beat a virus, calm a restive nation.

 

The New York Times: Health experts push back on Trump’s false claim that 99 percent of U.S. infections are “totally harmless.”

 

The Hill’s roundup of Sunday talk shows: Food and Drug Administration commissioner declines to confirm Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are “harmless.”

 

The Hill: A growing number of Democratic lawmakers contend that without a national strategy from the Trump administration, it is already too late to contain COVID-19 in expanding regions of the United States.

 

> Working and learning from home: Some companies, including British drugmaker AstraZeneca, have created educational fallbacks and child care alternative systems for employees to help them adapt to working during the pandemic and helping their children learn at home. The new corporate attitude about home-working could help lead to higher productivity and loyalty, according to experts, as companies rethink whether staff need to be in the office, and as schools take time to return to normal (Reuters). …Parents are opting to home school their children because of COVID-19, but experts say it might not be for everyone (NBC News).

 

> Testing for COVID-19: Five reasons why the United States still hasn’t solved its testing crisis after six months (Politico).

 

> Vaccine news: Who will get it first? Food suppliers argue their workers should be near the front of the line. Fifteen trade groups recently made their case to Trump, citing his declaration that the food and agriculture sector is a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. Administration officials have signaled they will take a “tiered approach” to giving out the vaccine when it is ready (The Hill). … Officials gird for a war on vaccine misinformation (Science magazine).

 

> COVID-19, virus genetics and mutations: In humans, DNA linked to COVID-19 was passed down from Neanderthals, a study finds. A stretch of six genes seems to increase the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus (The New York Times). … The Houston Chronicle reports that “evidence is growing” that a mutated coronavirus strain circulating in Houston is more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19 in China, according to two new research papers. Questions about the effect of mutations in the virus have circulated in the scientific community since last year, and mutations pose challenges for the development of an effective vaccine (Healthline).

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

2020 POLITICS: The Trump campaign announced on Sunday that the president will return to the campaign trail on Saturday and hold a “Make America Great Again” rally in New Hampshire as the coronavirus pandemic widens across parts of the country.

 

The rally will be Trump’s first in nearly three weeks following the campaign’s underwhelming event in Tulsa, Okla., that attracted only 6,200 supporters after top Trump officials touted that more than 1 million individuals had signed up for tickets. It will be the campaign’s second rally since the start of the pandemic.

 

In a big change from the Tulsa event, the rally in Portsmouth, N.H., will be held outdoors at an airplane hangar. According to the campaign, attendees will be provided with “ample access to hand sanitizer” and “a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.” The rally is scheduled for 8 p.m (The Hill).

 

The news comes amid a continued struggle in Trump’s bid for a second term as he remains behind in polling against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Biden leads by 8.7 percentage points and holds the advantage in a number of key swing states.

 

Politico: Donald Trump's shrinking electoral map.

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump.

 

The Associated Press: Democrats, Biden look to accelerate Southern political shift.

 

Electorally, Georgia is a state that’s on upset watch, according to The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley. Trump’s reelection campaign is spending to defend in the long-held GOP state as polls show a tight race, fueling Democratic optimism about their prospects of turning it blue. 

 

The Biden campaign has identified Georgia as one of several opportunities to go on offense, and campaign insiders say that’s not just bluster. They believe a younger and more diverse electorate energized by the civil unrest, coupled with Trump’s collapse in the suburbs and broader implosion in the polls, has set the stage for Democrats to win the state for the first time since 1992.

 

While Republicans believe Democrats are getting ahead of their skis, they know the state is changing fast, pointing to the close 2018 gubernatorial race, which Democrat Stacey Abrams lost by only 50,000 votes.

 

The Hill: Trump second-term plans remain a mystery to the GOP. 

 

> Senate fight: While the president struggles, his issues could have a profound effect on the GOP’s tenuous hold of its Senate majority. As The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes about the state of play, Democrats are within striking distance of retaking the upper chamber with less than four months until the November election, leaving Republicans with an arduous path as vulnerable GOP incumbents are forced to deal with the sagging presidential approval ratings.

 

According to several recent polls, Democratic challengers are leading GOP incumbents in Arizona, North Carolina and Iowa, with Republicans also forced to play defense in a number of other states, including Colorado, Maine and Montana. While the GOP is still expected to unseat Sen. Doug Jones (D) in Alabama, other pick-up opportunities are quickly evaporating, including in Michigan, where Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersRepublican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE (D) leads Republican John James despite high hopes within the party only months ago.

 

The New York Times: A Trump-backed Senate candidate’s hedge fund disaster.

 

Dan Balz: The politics of race are shifting, and politicians are struggling to keep pace.

 

> Veepwatch: Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Biden can rebuild trust in our justice system by prioritizing prosecutorial reform Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-Mass.) have gotten the lion’s share of attention as a potential Biden running mate, but Susan Rice is also getting a long look for the role by Team Biden.

 

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is getting a lot of attention as the Biden campaign moves closer to selecting a running mate. Sources say that Rice has seen her stock rise amid a series of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

“I know she’s very much in the mix,” a source close to the Biden campaign said, with Rice’s close relationship to the former VP playing an important role (The Hill).

 

Rice made her latest play for the role on Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” where she defended her candidacy to become Biden’s running mate even though she has never run a national campaign and has a lack of experience in electoral politics, especially compared to others Biden is considering for the position (Politico). 

 

The Washington Post: Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (D-Ill.) emerging as a contender to be Biden’s running mate.

 

The New York Times: “Strategic empathy”: How Biden’s informal diplomacy shaped foreign relations.

 

 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Lawmakers are weighing tightening the qualifications for small business aid as they debate a fifth coronavirus package, which could come down the pipeline by the end of the month. 

 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, senators in both parties are tossing their support behind a plan to add new requirements for businesses that apply for funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, the small-business loan program launched as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March. 

 

“I think everyone understands that'll have to be a part of it in the second round. ... So I think that'll most definitely, in my view, be a part of it,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Rubio signals opposition to Biden Cabinet picks Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, when asked about including a means test to qualify for more loans.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R-Ky.) indicated last week that the Senate is planning to work on a COVID-19 response package after it returns from the Fourth of July recess next week, with the hope of passing legislation by the end of the month. Among the topics that will surely be dealt with is unemployment insurance, as the provision included in the CARES Act that gives an additional $600 to every weekly unemployment check through the end of the month is set to expire.

 

Democrats continue to push for the expansion of the provision, which they argue has been a crucial lifeline to the millions of Americans who were furloughed or lost jobs as a result of the pandemic. But Republicans worry that the additional $600 adds incentive for individuals not to return to work. 

 

“We have a real concern about creating an unintended incentive for people to stay on the sidelines in this economy. And that $600 plus-up in unemployment many believe has contributed to that,” Vice President Pence told CNBC last week (The Hill). 

 

The Washington Post: Congress departs for two-week recess without addressing coronavirus spikes, economic strains.

 

The Hill: Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide.

 

 

****

 

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump, who says he is incensed at the removal of Confederate and other statues by activists and communities nationwide, announced on Saturday that his administration will create a new monument called the “National Garden of American Heroes.” In that “vast outdoor park” will be “the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” including some noted by the president. Historians interviewed by The Washington Post reacted to the historical figures mentioned on an executive order list, which includes no Native Americans, Latinos or Democratic presidents. Upshot: From historians’ perspective, a scattershot effort.

 

Loyalty: Two young White House staffers will begin conducting interviews with political appointees at the Defense Department this week, a move that some fear could lead to more dismissals of Pentagon officials considered disloyal to Trump. The White House Office of Public Liaison sent an email to political appointees at the Pentagon on Wednesday, inviting officials to schedule a meeting with representatives from the White House Presidential Personnel Office. The message touts the meetings as a platform for non-career officials to show off their credentials for a position in a possible second Trump term (Foreign Policy).  

 

Bureau of Land Management: William Perry Pendley, a climate change skeptic and Trump’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management at the Interior Department, has a record of opposing public land ownership and a 17-page recusal list detailing ties to industries that could benefit from increased land access. His controversial nomination is giving some Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee election year heartburn. Pendley is a lightning rod for public lands advocates, and his confirmation is not a done deal (The Hill).

 

Americans in Yemen: Advocacy groups are warning that thousands of U.S. citizens remain stranded in Yemen more than three months after the country closed its borders to stem the spread of COVID-19. Advocates say one group of Americans has largely been ignored and faces an increasingly desperate situation, although the State Department flew about 300 Americans home on flights on June 28 and July 1. “Every single American deserves to have their government protect them when they are in harm's way in a foreign country and to be repatriated under a public health emergency that has really impacted the entire world,” said Ahmed Mohamed, litigation director for the New York office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (The Hill).

 

IRS: As some employees of the Internal Revenue Service return to their work sites after being absent during the pandemic, the IRS faces a backlog of tax returns to process and taxpayers to assist before the new tax-filing deadline of July 15. COVID-19 shutdowns prompted the IRS to extend the filing deadline three months beyond April 15 (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!



OPINION

America and China are entering the dark forest, by Niall Ferguson, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3iA6tzl 

 

I’ve watched in alarm as my fellow Republicans shun masks. It’s selfish, by Karen Hughes, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2BFBi4V 



A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Every vote is a voice heard

 

Facebook is building the largest voter information efforts in US history, starting with the new Voting Information Center, where you can find the latest resources about voting in the 2020 election.

 

Learn more about our efforts.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets in a pro forma session at 2 p.m. and won’t get back to legislative business until July 20.

 

The Senate meets at 11:15 a.m. for a pro forma session.

 

The president will meet with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE at 11:30 a.m. in the Oval Office.

 

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!

 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.



ELSEWHERE

Supreme Court: For the first time in 34 years, the Supreme Court is releasing decisions in July after the coronavirus pandemic upended its traditional schedule. The court has a handful of thorny legal questions to resolve before the term is over. Here are the five most anticipated decisions still pending (The Hill).

 

Crime: Cyber criminals are stepping up efforts to target Americans working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic as employees across the nation work remotely away from secure office networks (The Hill). … Bloomberg Businessweek magazine’s annual “Heist” issue is HERE, including a tale from tech combatants, “Did a Chinese hack kill Canada’s greatest tech company [Nortel]?”

 

➔ International: The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close for the first time in 100 years beginning on Tuesday for an indefinite period as authorities scramble to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Melbourne (Reuters). … India postpones its Taj Mahal reopening plans because of the risks of COVID-19. Local authorities extended the indefinite lockdown of monuments in and around Agra, a city that has been hit hard by the virus (Reuters). … In France, the Louvre museum reopened today with limits of 1,000 visitors at a time after being shuttered for months as a precaution during the pandemic (The Washington Post). … A second region in Spain reimposed lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Galicia, a region in northwestern Spain, announced restrictions on roughly 70,000 residents on Sunday, one day after Catalonia made a similar decision (Reuters). … Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a video Saturday that he will emphasize “Mexico’s strength” during his visit with Trump at the White House on Wednesday (The Yucatan Times).



THE CLOSER

And finally … NASA is delaying its pending exploration of Mars. 

 

The plan to launch the Mars Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter along the red planet will now happen on July 30 at the earliest, and with limited time a big factor. NASA cited “launch vehicle processing delays in preparation for spacecraft mate operations" after an issue arose with a liquid oxygen sensor in preparation for the mid-July launch. The goal of the mission is the search for signs of ancient life across the planet.

 

The delay is a nail-biter because the window for a launch closes on Aug. 15. The entire project would be pushed until 2022 if the rover doesn’t make it aloft by then (CNET).