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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by The American Investment Council – Dems plot CARES 2 bill; infected Pence aide forces VP precautions

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 79,528. 

 

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1967 

 

House Democrats are in early conversations with the White House and Republicans about a fifth bill to ease the coronavirus and economic crises, but President Trump’s advisers said on Sunday they will wait several weeks to see how states’ reopenings impact the economy.

 

After weeks of internal proposals, House Democrats are hoping to release a bill that would include at least $800 billion in funding for state and local governments as they look to stake their claim in negotiations on a CARES 2 package. Lawmakers had been hoping to release a bill by the end of last week, when the April jobs report emerged showing an unemployment rate of 14.7 percent and that 21.5 million Americans lost jobs last month. 

 

“We put a marker down that follows the lead of other bipartisan legislation that has been passed with increased funding because we have not done enough testing, with increased assistance to state and local governments because their outlays of money for the coronavirus and their loss of revenue continued to grow,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told C-SPAN on Friday. 

 

In the interview, Pelosi reiterated the three pillars of the looming Democratic proposal: funding for those on the front lines, testing and relief to Americans in some form, including direct payments. However, while Democrats push ahead, bipartisan talks have not kicked off as Republicans worry about more potential spending and other aspects of another package. 

 

“We just want to make sure that before we jump back in and spend another few trillion of taxpayers’ money that we do it carefully,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” Mnuchin served as the top GOP negotiator on the CARES Act enacted in March.

 

Administration responses to COVID-19 and plans for upcoming travel and events could be scrambled this week if additional officials in the West Wing begin to test positive for the coronavirus. Vice President Pence began rigorous social distancing on Sunday after his top spokeswoman, who is married to Trump’s immigration adviser and speechwriter, Stephen Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Trump’s military valet also tested positive last week.

 

Pence, who directs the White House coronavirus task force, is steering clear of other people but is not in quarantine, the White House said, noting the vice president’s negative coronavirus test results as of Sunday (The Associated Press). Nonetheless, some senior administration officials believe COVID-19 is already spreading through the confined quarters in the West Wing and presents a real and present risk (The New York Times). 

 

The Associated Press: New week brings new challenges for White House.

 

As the White House continues discussions with lawmakers about another recovery bill and Trump plans a trip to Philadelphia in swing-state Pennsylvania later this week, Republicans say they’re against enacting more direct relief payments to Americans, after approving one-time checks of $1,200 to those making under $75,000. However, Democrats are rallying around the idea and are set to propose giving most Americans monthly $2,000 relief checks during the course of the pandemic, with Pelosi giving the idea her stamp of approval during a conference call with Democrats last week.

 

As The Hill’s Scott Wong writes, there’s no guarantee the costly proposal will make it into the final bipartisan coronavirus package that will eventually be negotiated by the Trump administration and Democratic leaders. Republicans, who control the Senate, are balking at the idea even as the president concedes more aid may be needed for workers. 

 

“The government has told people we need to shelter in place to keep safe. So it’s the government’s obligation to provide for basic expenses while we’re telling people not to work. It’s really that simple,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive leader who has authored legislation calling for more relief checks.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Push ahead with coronavirus plan amid break in talks.

 

Reuters: White House considers more coronavirus aid as jobs picture worsens.

 

The Hill: This week: Senate juggles coronavirus with surveillance fight.

 

Meanwhile, questions continue to persist over when the House will return to Washington for work after being out of session during the vast majority of the pandemic. House Democratic leaders face a wide range of challenges that will influence their decisions about how to resume the chamber’s business for the long term during the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

While the Senate came back into session this week, the House’s return is more complicated, due in large part to the lower chamber having more than four times as many members, as Cristina Marcos notes. However, there are many other matters of consequence, including regarding those lawmakers who sleep in their offices while Congress is in session and how to maneuver the cramped offices for staffers. 

 

Also creating a problem is that the number of cases likely has still not peaked in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and the insufficient number of tests for lawmakers. Much to the chagrin of some lawmakers, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) jointly agreed not to use the rapid Abbott test on Capitol Hill when the White House offered it up. 

 

Reuters: Three key U.S. coronavirus officials in self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure, set to appear virtually at Tuesday Senate hearing. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, will chair the hearing via videoconference after one of his staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Alexander will work from home for the next two weeks (CBS News).

 

The Associated Press: Congress races to fill a void as Trump pulls back from the coronavirus crisis.

 

The Hill: Sunday Shows: Reopening states in the spotlight after historic job losses.

 

 

 

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LEADING THE DAY

STATE WATCH: States are building armies of disease detectives to respond to COVID-19 infections, reports Reid Wilson. Effective methods to trace people who have unknowingly been in contact with others infected with the coronavirus is a key mitigation tool to more safely reopen states for business. For instance, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has hired 1,000 contract tracers.

 

> New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), citing travel-related COVID-19 cases and community contact cases of the virus, on Friday signed an executive order to “continue the suspensions and modifications of law, and any directives, not superseded by a subsequent directive,” through June 6, with exemptions (CBS6). The governor said on Sunday that all nursing home staff in New York are now required under state orders to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week because of outbreaks in nursing homes. 

 

Reopening the Empire State for business in coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut is a significant challenge because of factors that continue to make New York City an epicenter for COVID-19 spread (The New York Times).

 

One essential read: At the center of the contagion in the United States, New York sees the gamut of physical damage COVID-19 manifests in patients who live, as well as those who die, including children. It is not just a respiratory disease. It does not leave survivors unscathed if they recover. Human health can be altered forever, and researchers and clinicians say they are just beginning to learn what they’re dealing with (The Washington Post).

 

> Georgia: COVID-19 has moved beyond both coasts and found rural America, with catastrophic results. Of the 20 counties with the highest death rates in America, six are in rural southwest Georgia, where there are no packed skyscrapers or subways (The Associated Press).

 

> Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Sunday said there will be no new version of normal in his state until a vaccine and treatments “eradicate” the coronavirus. Illinois entered phase two of Pritzker’s five-phase blueprint for managing the virus when the governor did not extend his stay-at-home order beyond May 1, allowing nonessential retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup and enabling outdoor activities such as golfing, boating and fishing to resume with social distancing. Pritzker said a spike in new cases is due to increased testing. In terms of raw numbers, Illinois has reported the fourth-most cases of all 50 states (The Washington Post). 

 

> North Dakota and Colorado: Politico reports that Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota (R) and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) are expected to each visit Trump at the White House this week, continuing a series of events in which governors from both parties sit down in the Oval Office to receive Trump’s commendations for reopening their states to commercial activities. Polis (pictured below), who is scheduled to meet with the president on Wednesday, was one of the earliest governors to lift his stay-at-home order. He wants to discuss his state’s need for additional assistance and federal resources, including for testing and personal protective equipment, his spokesman said (The Denver Post). 

 

 

 

 

***

ADMINISTRATION: The president says his push to revive the moribund U.S. economy is balanced against public health and safety. At the same time, he veers between predictions of high death tolls, waves of infection, the need for therapies and an effective vaccine while also assuring Americans that COVID-19 will simply “disappear” on its own.

 

The emphasis on West Wing optimism in all things tied to the disease and economic recovery was therefore rocked a bit on Sunday with projections from Mnuchin and national economic adviser Larry Kudlow that U.S. unemployment (off-the-charts disturbing at nearly 15 percent in April) will be worse in May. Much worse. This is not a forecast Trump is volunteering. He prefers to look ahead to a predicted “bounce” in 2021.

 

Actual unemployment “could be” at 25 percent, or Great Depression levels, Mnuchin said on Sunday (Fox News KTVU). Kudlow, speaking on ABC News “This Week” on Sunday, said, “I don’t want to sugarcoat it because I think the numbers for May are going to be also very difficult.”

 

The New York Times: Investors show broad optimism in global markets.

 

> State Department: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s most aggressive China critic, insists Beijing is responsible for a pandemic because of the government’s lack of transparency about the lethal outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan last year. Pompeo has drawn the ire of Chinese officials and state-backed media, who label him a “liar” and “the common enemy of mankind” for his attacks on the Communist Party. And despite mixed messages from U.S. officials and growing concern among allies, the secretary continues to demand global powers investigate Chinese laboratories as a possible origin of the novel coronavirus (The Hill). Because the Trump administration continues to seek trade concessions while it does business with China, and the president embraces President Xi Jinping (pictured below in 2018) as a “friend,” the question is what the United States wants to do beyond tough rhetoric to undercut China’s sway.

 

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are preparing to accuse Beijing of attempting to steal U.S. vaccine research via hacking. A draft public warning to China asserts the government is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.” It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories. The warning may be issued soon (The New York Times).

 

CNBC: Trump on Friday said he is “very torn” about the phase one U.S.-China trade deal, despite discussions by officials in both countries about the progress to date. The president said he’d assess the effort this week.

 

 

 

 

> Justice Department: Formally dismissing retired Gen. Michael Flynn’s criminal case, which was a recommendation Attorney General William Barr announced and Trump defended continuously on Twitter since Friday, is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee who has presided over the federal proceedings since late 2017. Legal analysts suggest the judge could grant the department’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case with little fanfare, despite the defendant’s multiple admissions of lying to the FBI, or perhaps offer a more expansive written opinion or require a hearing about the unprecedented turn of events (The Hill). 

 

More than a decade ago, Sullivan berated the Justice Department when it asked to dismiss a seven-count conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) after what the judge called the “mishandling and misconduct” by the department of a case in which the prosecution was accused of presenting false information to the jury (Washington Lawyer).

 

Separately, Barr is a target of controversy because he suggests the underlying FBI probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its examination of potential ties to Trump’s campaign was not warranted. Barr asserts the FBI should not have interviewed Flynn and that the former national security adviser’s admitted decision to lie to the FBI about his contacts with Russia was not a crime. House Judiciary Committee Democrats would like to put Barr on the witness stand to ask him about his actions, but it’s unclear whether that would occur.

 

> FBI: GOP lawmakers, pundits and conservative figures advocate an overhaul at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and signal growing frustration with Director Christopher Wray, who they perceive as less interested in “cleaning house.” The growing backlash, which comes amid reports that Trump has soured on Wray, is a stark reversal from 2017, when he was confirmed 92-5 amid wide bipartisan approval following Trump’s firing of his predecessor, James Comey. Some conservatives want to see Wray’s dismissal, in spite of, or perhaps as a boost to, the election season (The Hill).

 

> Pentagon & COVID-19: U.S. chief of naval operations Adm. Michael Gilday is self-quarantining because of contact with a family member with confirmed COVID-19 (CNN). Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard bureau, tested positive Saturday but a later test was negative. He was to be tested again (ABC News).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Senate Republicans are concerned that Trump’s handling of the pandemic has put their majority in danger as polls increasingly show GOP incumbents losing ground less than six months before election day. 

 

As Alexander Bolton reports, the two biggest criticisms of Trump that GOP lawmakers express privately are that his administration took too long to deploy coronavirus tests and that the president’s statements and demeanor have been too cavalier or flippant regarding the virus. The biggest headwind Republicans face this fall is the faltering national economy, with GOP senators growing concerned that Trump’s approval rating falls below all 50 governors and other world leaders, though Trump’s popular support has long been tough to poll.

 

Creating more issues, recent polls show Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a once-safe incumbent, now trailing his Democratic opponent, Gov. Steve Bullock (D), and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who was viewed as being well on her way to a second term, in a dead heat with Theresa Greenfield, the Democratic nominee. 

 

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) both face uphill climbs to win in November, while Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) both face tough contests in November. Democrats need to win a net of three seats and the White House to win back the Senate.

 

“There’s concern,” said one Republican lawmaker describing apprehension over Trump’s job performance over the past two months.

 

The Washington Post: Republicans grow nervous about losing the Senate amid worries over Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

 

> Trump vs. Biden: After a variety of endorsements from key Democrats for former Vice President Joe Biden in recent weeks, one has been notably absent from the scene: former President Clinton.

 

While former President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), among others, have rolled out endorsements of Biden after the primary campaign, the 42nd president has been nowhere to be seen. Bill Clinton’s absence is due in part to his affair with Monica Lewinsky and others, particularly as Biden deals with an allegation of sexual assault by a former staffer, which he has denied. 

 

“Talk about a man who doesn’t fit the moment,” one longtime Democratic fundraiser told The Hill’s Amie Parnes

 

Some Democrats believe Bill Clinton’s emergence would be problematic, especially at this point, and give the GOP more fodder and a messaging opportunity.

 

“Republicans would have a field day,” said one Democrat who served in the Obama White House. “Even though President Clinton left with high approval ratings, he’s still catnip for the right [wing], especially at this moment. The optics would be terrible.”

 

Joe Biden in The Washington Post: How the White House coronavirus response presents us with a false choice.

 

Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: Biden’s time in Sarah Palin’s shadow.

 

The Washington Post: Both parties struggle with how to hold political conventions in the time of a pandemic.

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

OPINION

The Supreme Court has a chance to affirm its neutrality: No president is immune from prosecution, by George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2WkPKXw

 

Ahmaud Arbery and the America that doesn’t exist: Black Americans need more than a trial and a verdict, by Esau McCaulley, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2YPfzR5

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene on Tuesday at noon.

 

The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Brian Montgomery to be deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

The president meets at 12:30 p.m. with Pompeo in the Oval Office. Trump at 4 p.m. will speak in the Rose Garden with administration officials about coronavirus testing. (There are no plans for Trump and Pence to remain apart because of the potential that COVID-19 is spreading inside the White House).

 

The vice president will host a video teleconference with governors on COVID-19 and economic responses at 11:00 a.m..   

 

The Coronavirus Report, presented by The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons, 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://digital-stage.thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube

ELSEWHERE

➔ International: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a “conditional plan” to reopen the United Kingdom on Sunday that would allow for some children to return to school by June 1 and some public spaces to reopen by July. However, Johnson cautioned that the timing is not right to end the national lockdown, despite deciding to ease some restrictions (BBC). … The Washington Post: What is happening? Boris Johnson’s speech stirs further confusion in Britain. … Senior citizens in Turkey were allowed to leave their domiciles for the first time in seven weeks as the country relaxes restrictions. Individuals 65 and older have been under a stay-at-home order since March 21 and are now able to venture outside for up to four hours. Those under 20 will be allowed outside later this week (The Associated Press). … South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned of a second wave of COVID-19 infections as the nation reported its largest single-day total of reported cases in a month. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 34 new infections following a minor outbreak at nightclubs in Seoul (Reuters). 

 

 

 

 

It’s not meat: The coronavirus pandemic has created an important moment for the plant-based food industry, which has seen major growth in revenue and is rapidly expanding its availability in grocery stores. The spotlight on the disrupted food supply chain, shortages of meat and the lack of worker safety in processing plants has led Americans to explore other food options (The Hill).  

 

Buono notizie: An Italian woman returned to her native nation after being held hostage for 18 months in Eastern Africa. Silvia Romano, 24, landed in Rome on Sunday after being released in Somalia. She was kidnapped in Kenya by a gunman while working as a volunteer for an Italian humanitarian group. Donning a mask and protective material to avoid the coronavirus, she hugged her mother and relatives after she landed while also greeting Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (The Associated Press)

 

➔ RIP: Jerry Stiller, the longtime actor known to much of America for his role as George Costanza’s perpetually yelling father in “Seinfeld,” passed away at age 92. Stiller’s son, Ben Stiller, announced the news in a tweet Monday morning, saying that he died of natural causes. Prior to Seinfeld, Stiller had an accomplished career on Broadway and as part of a comedy duo with Anne Meara, his wife of 62 years. 

THE CLOSER

And finally …  Famed 1950s R&B icon Little Richard died on Saturday at age 87 of bone cancer in Tennessee (The New York Times). The passing of Richard Penniman (his real name), sparked tributes on social media from artists Bob Dylan, 78, and Paul McCartney, 77, who each said Little Richard inspired their respective early fascination with popular music, including rock ‘n’ roll.

 

“I just heard the news about Little Richard and I’m so grieved,” Dylan tweeted. “He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy. His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do.”  

 

McCartney tweeted that Little Richard proved correct about the impact he had on a young lad from Liverpool:

 

From ‘Tutti Frutti’ to ‘Long Tall Sally’ to ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ to ‘Lucille’, Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager. I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it. He would say, ‘I taught Paul everything he knows’. I had to admit he was right,” McCartney wrote on Sunday. “In the early days of The Beatles we played with Richard in Hamburg and got to know him. He would let us hang out in his dressing room and we were witness to his pre-show rituals, with his head under a towel over a bowl of steaming hot water. He would suddenly lift his head up to the mirror and say, `I can’t help it cos I’m so beautiful’. And he was. A great man with a lovely sense of humour and someone who will be missed by the rock and roll community and many more.

 

“I thank him for all he taught me and the kindness he showed by letting me be his friend. Goodbye Richard, and a wop-bop-a-loo-bop.’ — Paul McCartney.” 

 

WATCH a 1985 clip from an interview with Little Richard from CBS “60 Minutes,” with the late Ed Bradley.

 

 

 

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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