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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday. 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 this week: Monday, 154,860. Tuesday, 155,471. Wednesday, 156,830. Thursday, 158,256.



The White House and top Democratic negotiators continue to make little headway toward a massive coronavirus relief bill ahead of a self-imposed Friday deadline to hash out an accord.

 

For the ninth time since the beginning of last week, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) met on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Once again, talks yielded scant progress.

 

"I can just tell you that there are no top-line numbers that have been agreed to. We continue to be, you know, trillions of dollars apart in terms of what Democrats and Republicans hopefully will ultimately compromise on," Meadows told reporters.

 

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but how long that tunnel is remains to be seen,” Pelosi said.

 

For weeks, the opposing sides have remained fixated on their respective price tags. House Democrats have stuck to the $3.4 trillion total they passed in the HEROES Act in May, while Republicans want a bill capped at $1 trillion. Mnuchin told reporters following the meeting that the negotiators need to see "some real compromise on some of the big issues." 

 

"If we can reach a compromise on these big issues, I think everything else will fall into place. If we can't reach an agreement on these mitigations, then I don't see us coming to an overall deal," Mnuchin said.

 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, plenty of big issues are unresolved, including the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week. Federal funding for state and local governments is another ONE. Republicans have offered some flexibility tied to the $150 billion already appropriated by Congress. Republicans and President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE also want liability protection for COVID-19 infections written into law. That issue remains a “red line” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.). 

 

The Associated Press: Capitol negotiators still stuck, still trying on virus aid.

 

The Washington Post: Trump threatens executive actions as coronavirus relief deal remains elusive on Capitol Hill.

 

Carl Hulse, The New York Times: In stimulus talks, McConnell is outside the room and in a tight spot.

 

The Hill: McConnell goes hands-off on bill.

 

As leverage, Democrats are leaning on the political pressure Republicans are feeling in an election year from unemployed Americans, businesses, economists and financial markets to act generously and quickly as families continue to struggle with two crises at once. Friday’s federal jobs report for July is expected to show that the revival of jobs has ebbed since June. 

 

Meadows and Mnuchin are using as their pry bar Trump’s repeated but vague vows to go around Congress to restore some unemployment benefits, revive an eviction moratorium and impose a “term-limited suspension of the payroll tax.”

 

As Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels report, Trump, akin to his recent predecessors, favors an expansive view of executive power, especially during divided government. Trump, who met in the Oval Office with Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan On The Trail: The political perils of Snowmageddon 'Purple America' will set political direction in 2022 MORE (R), may be bluffing about some actions he vows to take under the Constitution, but he is poised to announce executive orders in the coming weeks that will add to his campaign checklist of what he touts as promises kept, sources tell The Hill.

 

The Hill: Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal.

 

The Washington Post: Trump sees new executive powers springing from an unlikely source: one of his defeats at the Supreme Court.

 

The New York Times: Liability shield a stumbling block as lawmakers debate relief.

 

More news from Capitol Hill: Former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesBiden directs DOJ to phase out use of private prisons The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from chaotic downtown DC Biden to name Merrick Garland for attorney general MORE sparred with Republicans during a testy Senate hearing on Wednesday about the Russia investigation launched in 2016 (The Hill). … Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisLawmakers propose draft bill to create Capitol riot commission Pelosi says 9/11-style commission to investigate Capitol breach is 'next step' Conservative House Republican welcomes Clark as chief of US Chamber MORE (R-Ill.) announced on Wednesday that he is in self-quarantine with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Even as U.S. infections and fatalities from COVID-19 continue to climb, testing is declining, a worrisome trend that researchers believe may be the result of frustration and impatience Americans feel about the hassles of getting tested and the long waits to find out the results. An Associated Press analysis found that the number of tests per day fell 3.6 percent over the past two weeks to 750,000, with the count decreasing in 22 states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa, where the percentages of positive tests are high and continuing to climb, an indicator that the virus is still spreading uncontrolled (The Associated Press).

 

> Florida: The Sunshine State set new, grim records on Wednesday, exceeding 500,000 COVID-19 infections to date with a surge in single-day hospitalizations. Wednesday’s one-day death toll was 225, fewer than the July 31 record of 257 fatalities over a 24-hour period (WFLA).  

 

> North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that his state will put its phased reopening plans on pause for five weeks with existing restrictions in an effort to use caution as students head back to school (WBTV).

 

The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that as the United States approaches 5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, evidence suggests the summer surge may be cresting. 

 

> Schools: Chicago announced its public schools will begin the new year with virtual instruction, leaving New York City as the only major school system moving to in-person learning (The Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Times). In Gotham, Democratic Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan New Yorkers should double mask until at least June, de Blasio says NYC reports fewer than 1,000 vaccine doses amid winter weather shipment delays MORE’s push to open schools meets with some resistance, including from Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoFormer Cuomo aide says governor kissed her without consent Cuomo job approval drops 6 points amid nursing home controversy: poll Cruz blames criticism of Cancun trip on media 'Trump withdrawal' MORE (D), and the whole world is watching (The New York Times).

 

 

 

 

> Higher education: A Yale University student is suing for a tuition refund, one of more than a dozen suits filed against higher learning institutions across the country in recent months by students frustrated by the closure of campuses. Complaining about the “inferiority” of the online educational experience, Jonathan Michel said he paid $27,750 in tuition for the spring 2020 semester and was suing on behalf of members of his class who “did not receive the full value of the services for which they paid” (Hartford Courant and The New York Times).

 

> Vaccine: National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNew data suggest 'long COVID' symptoms last up to 9 months: Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday that “ultimately if you really want to put the nail in the coffin of an outbreak you have to have a vaccine.” He acknowledged that each individual’s appraisal of disease risk depends on their demographics, rendering voluntary precautions tough to maintain. “We’ve got to all pull together,” he repeated. 

 

Fauci said worldwide competition to be first to develop effective vaccines will not undermine safety (Bloomberg News). Even a vaccine that is 50 percent to 60 percent effective against COVID-19 would be “value added” during the COVID-19 pandemic in combination with preventative behavioral precautions, he said. It is possible a vaccine may be effective against the virus for just months, which would still be “OK” because it could bridge people through at least a season of the contagion, possibly followed by booster shots, Fauci added. Research trials for new coronavirus treatments to reduce the severity of infections are underway, he added.

 

> Misinformation crackdown by social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook penalized Trump’s campaign account for what the companies determined to be coronavirus misinformation in a video clip in which the president said children are “almost immune” to COVID-19. Children are not immune to infection by the coronavirus. Research studies indicate children contract the virus and can transmit it to other people, but children under the age of five appear to exhibit milder symptoms, even if their viral load of the coronavirus is as high or higher than adults and older children (The Washington Post).

 

> U.S. coronavirus mortality rate: More than 1,000 people a day are dying from COVID-19 in this country. Among the 20 countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, the United States has the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, ranking behind the United Kingdom, Peru and Chile. To downplay the impact of the pandemic, Trump asserts that the United States, with 330 million people, has one of the lowest worldwide COVID-19 mortality rates, a data point that is misleading (Time).

 

FactCheck.org reported that as of Tuesday, the U.S. had a mortality rate of 47.5 per 100,000 people, but Australia, Japan and South Korea all have mortality rates of less than 1 person per 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

 

In an interview with Axios broadcast on Monday, Trump objected to focusing on deaths as a proportion of the population, pointing instead to deaths as a proportion of total cases. “You have to go by the cases,” he said, claiming that the statistic showed the U.S. is “lower than Europe.”

 

The United States has a case-fatality rate of 3.3 percent, lower than many countries in Europe, including France, Spain and Germany. But there are also many countries with lower rates than the United States, including Australia (1.2 percent), Japan (2.5 percent), Israel (0.7 percent) and South Korea (2.1 percent).

 

That measure shows how deadly the disease has been for those who have been identified as infected, but looking at deaths per 100,000 population shows how the disease has affected the total population of a country.

 

> Immigrant children: More than 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children seeking entry to the United States have been expelled since March and returned to their home countries under an emergency declaration enacted by the administration, which cites COVID-19 in refusing to provide them with statutory protections under federal anti-trafficking and asylum laws. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have refused to answer most questions about how the agencies treat roughly 70,000 adults and children expelled under the administration’s emergency declaration issued in March (The Associated Press).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE announced on Wednesday that he will no longer travel to Milwaukee to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, and will instead do so in a speech from Wilmington, Del. 

 

The decision, coupled with the cancellation of the GOP convention’s festivities in Jacksonville, Fla., means that the 2020 conventions will be effectively shuttered. The official nominating portion of the Democratic convention will be held virtually, while only GOP delegates will convene in Charlotte, N.C., to officially nominate the president.

 

"From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said in a statement on Wednesday. “We followed the science, listened to the doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That's the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves” (The Hill). 

 

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, Trump said that he will “probably” deliver his nomination speech from the White House — a possibility that was met with skepticism among some top Republicans.

 

“Is that even legal?” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Senate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump Graham, Trump huddle to talk GOP's 2022 strategy MORE (R-S.D.) asked when reporters asked about the possibility of Trump delivering his speech from the White House grounds. “I assume that’s not something that you could do. I assume there’s some Hatch Act issues or something. I don’t know the answer to that, and I haven’t heard him say that, but I think anything to do with federal property would seem to me to be problematic” (The Hill).

 

The conversation surrounding the conventions came as the two sides released July fundraising totals, with the Trump side outraising Biden’s campaign by $25 million ($165 million to $140 million) and hitting a major milestone as it eclipsed the $1 billion mark for the cycle (The Hill).

 

However, there were bright spots in the fundraising totals for the Biden campaign, specifically that the two sides are now nearly tied in cash on hand as Trump’s team has $300 million compared to $295 million for Biden. The Trump campaign held a $187 million advantage only four months ago, which has been almost completely erased (The New York Times).

 

The Hill: Trump says there is no legal prohibition against an acceptance speech from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

 

The Associated Press: Biden on cognitive test: “Why the hell would I take a test?”

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting.

 

The Hill: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat.

 

 

 

 

> Senate primary: A vicious GOP primary in Tennessee to replace retiring 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) is headed for a close finish on Thursday as Bill Hagerty, who has the support of the president, attempts to hold off Manny Sethi, a trauma surgeon who has won the backing of Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Shelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary MORE (R-Ky.). 

 

As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, the two Tennessee Republicans have embraced Trump as the leader of the Republican Party, with the winner almost certain to replace Alexander, a top McConnell ally and a longtime figure in Tennessee politics. However, the race has grown into a blood feud in recent weeks as attacks in each direction continue to escalate, with the candidates litigating everything from political donations made by their spouses to where they went to school. 

 

“It’s probably the ugliest primary in Tennessee in a while, but 2014 wasn’t sugar and spice,” said one Tennessee GOP operative, referring to Alexander’s primary win over Joe Carr. “It’s been an ugly process.”

 

Hagerty at one point appeared to be on a glide path to the nomination after locking down Trump's support early on, having held a substantial lead in polls as recently as late June. However, the race has tightened, although Hagerty remains the slight favorite. 

 

“Hagerty just has the right message that Tennessee Republican primary voters want,” the operative added. “That is he is going to be a loyal soldier in Trump’s army.” 

 

Elaina Plott, The New York Times: Tennessee Republicans, once moderate and genteel, turn toxic in the Trump era.

 

The Hill: Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSix ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill MORE (D-Mich.) wins her Michigan Democratic primary.

 

The Hill: Republicans fear disaster in November.



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

Why did Lebanon let a bomb-in-waiting sit in a warehouse for six years? by Fasal Itani, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3a3RzgH

 

A California way to help the unemployed, even if Washington won’t, by David L. Ulin, opinion contributor, The Los Angeles Times. https://lat.ms/2PuYJRE



SPONSORED CONTENT — ALPA

The CARES Act: Good for workers, good for America

 

Unions and airlines agree: a clean extension of the CARES Act will position the airline industry to support economic recovery. Learn why.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session.

 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. The Senate Homeland Security Committee at 10 a.m. hears testimony from acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfLiberal watchdog group files ethics complaint over Boebert's reimbursements Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE about the involvement of his department’s law enforcement personnel with nationwide protests.  

 

The president will travel to Ohio to speak about the economy in Cleveland at 1:15 p.m. He will fly to Clyde, Ohio, to tour a Whirlpool manufacturing plant at 2:45 p.m., followed by a speech there at 3:15 p.m. Trump will fly to Bratenahl, Ohio, to meet with supporters at Shoreby Yacht Club at 6 p.m., followed by a campaign fundraising committee reception at 6:30 p.m. The president will fly from Ohio to his home in Bedminster, N.J., tonight.

 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. on jobless claims for the week ending Aug. 1. Analysts are particularly interested to see if continuing claims in addition to new filings are high, which would be unwelcome news for the U.S. economy and those unemployed (USA Today). Friday’s employment report for July will be closely watched; in June, the unemployment rate improved from a painful pandemic peak, dropping to 11.1 percent, but there are signs that recovery in U.S. employment has slowed since June. The employment picture hovers over Capitol Hill this week as negotiators try to reach a compromise to pass new COVID-19 relief legislation.

 

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

International: Lebanon’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that deadly blasts at Beirut’s port on Tuesday killed 135 people and injured about 5,000 others. Investigators have focused on possible negligence in the storage for six years of 2,750 tons of a highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer inside a waterfront warehouse. The government ordered the house arrest of several port officials. The Port of Beirut and customs office is known as one of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon where various factions and politicians, including Hezbollah, hold sway. Although Trump said Wednesday he had “heard” theories of both accidental negligence and intentional attacks and that “nobody knows yet,” a senior U.S. Defense Department official and member of the U.S. intelligence community said there were no indications the explosions were the result of an attack by either a nation state or proxy forces (The Associated Press).

 

Wall Street: Access to easy, quick, fee-free trading has lured millions of inexperienced investors into a gamified trading environment and raises questions about consumer protections and the impact on financial markets. The risks: a stock market bubble and potential bust (The Hill).

 

➔ Tech: Instagram launched a direct competitor to short-form video app TikTok in 50 countries Wednesday amid antitrust scrutiny. Reels, which is available within Instagram on iOS and Android, lets users edit together 15-second clips with music. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will now include Reels in its Explore page, allowing users to scroll through them vertically, much like TikTok's “for you” page (The Hill).

 

 

 

 

Sports: The University of Connecticut became the first Division I school to suspend its football program and cancel its 2020 season due to COVID-19. UConn’s athletic director, David Benedict, said the “safety challenges created” by the virus put an “unacceptable level of risk” on the student athletes (ESPN). … The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced on Wednesday that the Division III fall championships have been canceled for the 2020-2021 season, pointing to "the COVID-19 pandemic and related administrative and financial challenges.” The cancellations affect football, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, women's volleyball and men's water polo (ESPN).



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the upcoming anniversary of former President Nixon’s resignation, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the 36th president.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

During his resignation speech on Aug. 8, 1974, which of these sentences did Nixon utter?

  1. “God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.”
  2. “May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead.”
  3. “This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency.”
  4. “Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office.”

 

In addition to Nixon, how many other vice presidents in U.S. history were elected president while not being an incumbent?  

  1. Zero
  2. One
  3. Two
  4. Three

 

How much was Nixon paid to take part in a series of conversations with British journalist David Frost in 1977?

  1. $400,000
  2. $600,000
  3. $800,000
  4. $1 million

 

The film “All the President’s Men” about Nixon and the Watergate scandal did NOT capture which statuette at the 49th Academy Awards in 1977?

  1. Best adapted screenplay
  2. Best supporting actor
  3. Best actor 
  4. Best sound