Overnight Health Care: McConnell introduces third coronavirus relief proposal | Trump, FDA send conflicting signals | Governors plead for more coronavirus supplies, testing

Overnight Health Care: McConnell introduces third coronavirus relief proposal | Trump, FDA send conflicting signals | Governors plead for more coronavirus supplies, testing
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care. 

Senate Republicans released their $1 trillion coronavirus economic package, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE offered conflicting information about a potentially promising treatment for the COVID-19 disease, and governors are pleading with Trump for more help getting testing kits and medical supplies.

We'll start with a legislative update...



McConnell introduces third coronavirus relief proposal

Senate Republicans have reached a deal among themselves on legislation for the third coronavirus funding package amid growing concerns about a widespread outbreak in the United States. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) announced the agreement on the Senate floor, noting that Republicans would begin negotiating with Democrats on Friday.

Sixty votes would be needed to pass a coronavirus bill, meaning it will have to be bipartisan, but the bill introduced Thursday had virtually no input from Democrats.

"I'm officially introducing the coronavirus aid relief and economic security act. The legislation takes bold action on four major priorities that are extremely urgent and very necessary," McConnell said Thursday afternoon.

The nearly 250-page bill includes direct financial help for Americans, relief for small businesses, help for impacted industries like airlines and efforts to bolster the health care system.


Among the direct help for individuals is $1,200 for individuals who make up to $75,000. It also includes an additional $500 for a child. 

"Preventing the spread of the coronavirus will take a financial toll on individuals, families and businesses. These recommendations would blunt the impact for most Americans and limit the damage to the U.S. economy," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Grassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog MORE (R-Iowa) said in a statement.

Read more here.

Help for business: The package also includes a slew of business tax breaks that received little public discussion in recent days. That strong tilt toward helping businesses is certain to run into strong objections from Senate Democratic Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) who says the stimulus should focus on revamping the nation's healthcare system and workers directly affected by an economic downturn.

Read more on that here.


More from the Senate: 

Harris pushes for release of low-risk federal prisoners amid coronavirus outbreak 

Senior GOP senators object to direct payments at caucus meeting 

Senators offer bill to extend tax filing deadline 

Senators introduce rules that would allow for remote voting 


Meanwhile, House Democrats are eyeing a much broader Phase 3 stimulus 

House Democrats are indicating they want to go bigger and broader than the already-massive economic stimulus package offered by Senate Republicans to blunt the coronavirus pandemic.


On a Thursday conference call featuring more than 200 members of the House Democratic caucus, lawmakers one-by-one laid out a sweeping wish list of provisions they want to see included in the nascent package, including a boost in infrastructure spending, an expansion of Social Security benefits and funding for states to set up an all-mail voting system in the event the pandemic extends into November's elections.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision," Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told lawmakers, according to a source on the call.

Many of those proposals transcend the scope of the $1 trillion package introduced Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which features cash payments to individuals, low-cost loans for small businesses, new funding to boost the health care system, and a financial lifeline for the hardest hit industries, like aviation and cruise lines.

The big picture: Expect an eventual showdown with McConnell and the White House over the size and direction of the latest relief bill.

Read more here.


Front-line providers ask Congress for $100B for supplies 


Hospitals and other front-line medical providers are asking Congress for $100 billion in direct payments in order to appropriately respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint letter to congressional leaders, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association said Congress should direct the federal agencies "to begin to infuse funds immediately so that they can afford to take the necessary steps to fight the battle against this unseen enemy."

The request is a major increase from the initial ask of $1 billion earlier this week, but the groups said the situation has changed in just a few days. Hospitals are losing up to $1 million a day, and that number could rise as the outbreak worsens.

Read more here


More from the House: 

Pelosi urges Trump to tap emergency war powers immediately 


Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive


One question: How are lawmakers going to vote?

Congressional leaders are considering ways to allow lawmakers to vote on legislation without requiring them all to congregate together in the Capitol now that at least two members have tested positive for the coronavirus. Cristina Marcos has more on how Congress is tiptoeing toward allowing remote voting.


Trump, FDA offer dueling signals at coronavirus briefing

President Trump on Thursday said the federal government would accelerate testing drugs to treat coronavirus, seeking to project optimism amid a massive spike in domestic cases of the virus. 

But Trump's remarks about a specific malaria drug he said had shown promise at treating the COVID-19 disease were quickly contradicted by his own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, suggesting the president's optimism might have been outrunning the reality on the ground.

Trump said a drug used to treat malaria is showing promise at treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and would be available "almost immediately."

"It is known as a malaria drug and it's been around for a long time and it's very powerful," Trump said. "But the nice part is it's been around for a long time so we know if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody." 

Those remarks were at odds with those of his FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, who shortly later repeatedly emphasized the importance of safety and said he does not want to "provide false hope." 

"We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good," Hahn said. 

Why it matters: Trump's top health officials often find themselves contradicting the president, which sends mixed messages to the public. 

Read more here


Frustration mounts at Trump's reluctance to use emergency production powers

Frustration is mounting at President Trump's reluctance to use emergency war powers to accelerate the production of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than three months into the pandemic, hospitals, health workers and state and local officials have said they are quickly running out of personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks, gowns and gloves that are crucial to keeping doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic safe.

Congressional Democrats, health care providers and governors said Trump needs to use those powers quickly in order to spur the massive increase in production and distribution that's needed.

But Trump said he will only use the Defense Production Act (DPA) as a last resort, and wants governors to take the lead. Trump said states are in a better position to manage their own supply chains than the federal government is, even if the federal government has much stronger purchasing power.

Read more here


More from the administration

White House scraps G-7 summit in favor of videoconference due to coronavirus

State Dept. urges US citizens to avoid all international travel


Photo of Trump's notes shows 'Chinese' virus written over 'coronavirus'

Trump accuses press of 'siding with China' amid pandemic

Millennials become focus of coronavirus outreach


Governors plead with Trump for more coronavirus supplies, testing

Governors pleaded with President Trump on Thursday for more federal help in getting the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Trump administration has boasted about the millions of test kits they have sent to labs across the country, governors said in a livestreamed teleconference call with the president that they don't have enough chemicals, or reagents, to process the results. They also said hospitals in their states still don't have enough masks, gowns or gloves to protect health workers on the frontlines of the outbreak.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSouth Dakota governor asks Trump to intervene in checkpoint dispute with Native American tribes Native American tribe leader says tribal sovereignty protects coronavirus checkpoints Are we being conditioned to limit our Bill of Rights? MORE (R) sounded exasperated as she described the difficulty her state has faced in finding reagents that are needed to process coronavirus tests.

"We were for two weeks requesting reagents for our public health lab from [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], who pushed up to private suppliers, who kept canceling orders on us," she said. Noem said her state finally got a shipment Thursday morning.

"I don't want to be less of a priority because we're a smaller state or less populated," she added.

Why it matters: Trump angered some governors during a call earlier this week when he said states should try getting their own supplies because it would be "faster."

Federal officials argue the stockpile should only be used to fill the gap until states get what they need from the private sector.

But governors on Thursday's call said they have not been able to find supplies for sale, in some cases because they were competing with the federal government or other states for the same items.

Read more here.


More from the states

Louisiana governor warns state could exceed capacity to treat patients within one week  

California projects 56 percent of population will be infected with coronavirus over 8-week period 

Navy hospital ship to deploy in 5 to 10 days to help with coronavirus relief


Stocks claw back early losses as stimulus comes into view

Stock markets clawed back deep early losses on Thursday, closing in on positive territory as the government's plans for a major economic stimulus became more clear.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 20,087, up 188 points, or 1 percent, after falling more than 700 points in morning trading. On Wednesday, it closed below 20,000 for the first time since 2017.

The S&P 500 returned from a nearly 80-point drop to close up 11.3 points, or 0.5 percent, at 2,409.

More on the day on Wall Street here.


More on the economy

Washington scrambles to prevent massive unemployment spike

Trump says government could take equity in bailed-out companies


What we're reading

Senator dumped up to $1.6 million of stock after reassuring public about coronavirus preparedness (ProPublica)

A drug maker recently doubled the price of chloroquine -- but in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it's cutting it in half (Stat News)

America needed coronavirus tests. The government failed (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. government plans to ratchet up emphasis on social distancing (Wall Street Journal)

A promising treatment for coronavirus fails (New York Times)

Kushner coronavirus team sparks confusion, plaudits inside White House response efforts (Washington Post)


State by state

Pence said all Grand Princess passengers in quarantine would be tested. Two-thirds of them said no (San Francisco Chronicle)

Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texans to avoid groups larger than 10; closes bars, gyms and restaurants for dine-in (Texas Tribune)

As doctors and nurses grow desperate for protective gear, they fear they're infecting patients (ProPublica)


The Hill op-eds

Failure to address coronavirus mental health issues will prolong impact 

COVID-19, incarceration and our public health 

Naming, not shaming -- patient privacy restrictions facilitate spread of coronavirus pandemic