COVID-19 Federal Update 4-15-2020
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 22,109, Tuesday, 23,649, Wednesday, 26,057
Needs for Coronavirus Relief bill #4
IMF Urges Post-Pandemic Stimulus: The International Monetary Fund wants policy makers to avoid repeating the Depression-era mistake of ratcheting back budget deficits. Instead, it’s urging them to ramp up fiscal stimulus when the coronavirus contagion starts to abate. “Once the recovery has happened and we are past the pandemic phase, for advanced economies it would be essential to undertake a broad-based stimulus,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath told reporters yesterday. “This would be even more effective if it were coordinated across all the advanced economies.” Read more from Rich Miller.
Implementation of CARES Act
Mnuchin’s Partnership with Fed Blurs Agency Lines: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has forged a crisis partnership with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, giving the central bank a bigger role in U.S. fiscal policy and blurring the lines between the agencies as they unleash $4.5 trillion in stimulus to combat the coronavirus. Mnuchin and Powell work together on the coronavirus rescue “round the clock,” according to the Treasury secretary. Already, the 106-year-old central bank is lending directly to main street businesses for the first time since the Great Depression.
Some analysts and former government officials see an erosion of the Fed’s traditional independence from politicians in the White House and Congress, as well as a central bank straying from monetary policy — the supply of dollars — into tax-and-spend fiscal policy. The risk is that “fiscal dominance” of the Fed could raise inflation or create currency and banking crises down the road, said Mark Sobel, who was a civil servant at Treasury for more than 40 years. “This crisis is blurring the boundaries between fiscal and monetary policy,” he said. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.
Fed Help Leaves Black-Majority Cities On Their Own: The Federal Reserve’s decision to extend loans only to the most-populous local governments may have a stark, if unintended consequence: excluding some of the cities and counties with the biggest share of black residents. Baltimore, Atlanta and Detroit, a formerly bankrupt city that’s been dealing with a major outbreak of Covid-19, are among cities that don’t qualify for help, according to a report released yesterday by the Brookings Institution. Only cities with more than 1 million residents—and counties with more than 2 million—will be able to take out loans from the central bank to cover short-term deficits as the coronavirus shutdown decimates their tax revenues. As a result, none of the 35 cities with the biggest share of black residents will qualify, Amanda Albright and Craig Torres report.
Small Construction Firms Top List for Virus Loans: Construction firms have had a larger share of loans approved than other industries so far under a government program meant to help small businesses survive the coronavirus outbreak, and the average loan amount for all applications has been about $239,000, a new report shows. The U.S. Small Business Administration yesterday released the most comprehensive report to date of the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a cornerstone of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion response to the pandemic. It details more than 1 million applications totaling $247.5 billion approved as of Monday. Read more from Jason Grotto.
Colleges Seek Access to Federal Lending: College groups are seeking clarity on whether higher-education institutions qualify for a federal lending program designed to soften the economic blow of the pandemic. The Federal Reserve’s “Main Street” lending program will provide $600 billion to small- and mid-sized businesses. But details about the program the Fed and Treasury Department released suggest nonprofits and colleges might not qualify. Higher-education lobbyists say they’ll urge that colleges be deemed eligible for the program as they look for any tools available to keep vulnerable institutions open in the face of huge losses from the pandemic. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.
IRS Braces for Scammer Onslaught: The Internal Revenue Service is bracing for another epidemic: scammers trying to get their hands on the $1,200 checks being sent out to millions of Americans to bolster the economy. The payments, plus an additional $500 for each child, have begun hitting bank accounts this week, opening a wide avenue of opportunities for scams, identity theft and low-tech crimes such as stealing checks from mailboxes. Laura Davison has more.
Trump’s Signature Will Appear on Coronavirus Stimulus Checks: Trump’s signature will appear on the $1,200 checks being mailed to low- and middle-income households in the coming weeks, according to two officials familiar with the decision. Typically, a civil servant’s signature — the disbursing officer for the payment center — would appear on regular government benefit checks or one-time economic stimulus payments. Read more from Saleha Mohsin and Laura Davison.
Health Care on Trump’s List for Re-opening Consultation: Trump said at a White House briefing yesterday that he would be discussing ways to revive the U.S. economy as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis with chief executives from some of the largest U.S. companies, Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs report. Health-care companies involved include Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Trinity Health, Cardinal Health, McKesson, and Procter & Gamble, among others, according to a statement from the White House. Read the full list here.
Americans Followed Social Distancing Well: New data from the CDC U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Americans responded fast and thoroughly to directions from federal, state and local leaders, doing everything from carefully washing their hands, cleaning high-touch areas, avoiding offices, and, in many cases, giving up much-needed income to remain at home. Those measures now seem to be paying off by slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Some earlier models of the U.S. outbreak suggested that as many as 2 million Americans could die from Covid-19. The success of social distancing cut those estimates repeatedly, with models now seeing fewer than 70,000 people in the U.S. dying of the illness. “That’s remarkable,’’ CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “The American public listened to that message: Protect the vulnerable.’’ Read more from Michelle Cortez.
Still, a group of Harvard disease researchers yesterday said people around the world may need to practice a degree of social distancing intermittently through 2022 to stop Covid-19 from surging anew. Lifting social-distancing measures all at once could risk simply delaying the coronavirus’s peak and potentially making it more severe, scientists warned in an article published yesterday in the journal Science. Read more from John Tozzi.
Trump Eases PPE Export Ban: The White House is easing its ban on exports of personal protective equipment (PPE), with the list of exemptions mounting after lawyers laid out the shortcomings of the rules, people familiar with the situation said. Exports to Canada, Mexico and U.S. entities such as military bases abroad are among those exemptions, according to an internal U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo obtained by Bloomberg News. It also singles out shipments by 3M, which Trump had initially blocked from sending N95 masks to Canada and Latin America. He reversed course last week after reaching a deal with the firm. Read more from Jenny Leonard.
Meanwhile, New York City has turned to its storied garment industry to shift from high fashion to mass manufacture of surgical gowns to protect health workers treating coronavirus patients. The gowns are part of a move by the city to build up its manufacturing capacity to locally make PPE and test kits by the tens of thousands per week, boosting production enough to become self-sufficient, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said. Henry Goldman has more.
Telemedicine Firms Move to Boost Footprint: Health technology companies, offering their software as a way for providers to care remotely for their patients during the pandemic, are hiring lobbying firms to open doors on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies. The outbreak and precautionary social distancing measures in place around the nation could be the tipping point the telemedicine industry has been waiting for, should policymakers and lawmakers agree to lower both the regulatory and financial barriers these companies have long fought against. Read more from Alex Ruoff and Megan R. Wilson.
Relief Disbursements to Medical Services: Over 318,000 hospitals and health systems in the U.S. received the first disbursement of pandemic stimulus relief totaling $30 billion, according to a table from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The six largest U.S. states by population—California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois—received the most funding. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said yesterday that he expects the next round of stimulus payments to be handed out differently than the first. Read the state-by-state breakdown here.
Protecting Insurance Amid Job Losses: House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and two others unveiled a bill yesterday they said would help workers “maintain their job-based health insurance” amid layoffs or furloughs caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Their bill “would provide federal assistance to cover the full cost of COBRA premiums for workers or the full cost of health insurance premiums owed by workers who are furloughed,” according to a statement. Read the bill here.
Protecting Fauci From Political Ouster: A Senate bill unveiled yesterday aims to protect Anthony Fauci and other National Institutes of Health leaders from a politically-motivated firing. The bill, introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), comes two days after Trump endorsed a tweet to #FireFauci, and in the weeks following the dismissal of inspectors general he’s found to be disloyal. If enacted, the measure would prohibit any of the institute’s directors from being ousted for any reason other than “malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity,” Jeannie Baumann reports.
Separately, two Republican senators, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), said in a letter yesterday to Trump that inspectors general are important, particularly in times of crisis such as the pandemic, and urged him to not rely on acting IGs but to nominate ones to execute the posts in a formal capacity. Trump has recently criticized HHS’ inspector general. Read the letter here.
Also yesterday, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, “in his role as chair of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency,” regarding CIGIE’s position in the inspector general nominating process. They asked about the council’s “recommendation process” and how often such recommendations are accepted by the White House. Read the letter here.
Reimbursements for Mental Health Providers: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a letter urged the White House to “fix Medicare reimbursement issues for mental health providers,” according to a statement. Ryan urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to change two rules he says have “negatively impacted the quality and quantity” of behavioral health services, especially during the pandemic, including one rule requiring therapists to have a supervisor physically present in the same building where a service is offered, “which is currently not possible with both therapists providing and patients receiving therapy in their own homes.” Read the letter here.
Next Year’s Premiums May Escape Impact of Covid-19: If the Covid-19 pandemic ends this year, Obamacare premiums probably won’t rise substantially in 2021, according to an actuary who reviews state rate filings. David Dillon, senior vice president and principal of Allen, Texas-based actuarial consulting firm Lewis & Ellis Inc., predicted that rates would rise 4% to 6% if the pandemic ends in 2020, because insurers can’t base future rates on past costs. That increase would primarily reflect medical inflation costs and be consistent with historical patterns, said Dillon, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries. Read more from Sara Hansard.
Abortion Providers Fight Pandemic Orders: A Tennessee outbreak emergency order that has the effect of banning abortion for women who are over 11 weeks pregnant is unconstitutional, abortion providers in the state seeking permission to add the claim to an existing federal lawsuit said. Adding the claim, instead of forcing the providers to file a new action, will promote judicial economy, Adams & Boyle told the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The suit claims a law that requires women to first see a doctor at leas t 48 hours prior to getting an abortion is unconstitutional. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
Separately, abortion providers in Louisiana are suing the state’s department of health and attorney general over a pandemic-related order that officials allegedly are threatening to use to ban the procedure. That order, entered by the Louisiana Department of Health late last month, doesn’t specifically address abortion, but it directs medical providers to postpone nonessential procedures during the outbreak to promote social distancing and maintain critical medical supplies. Read more from Pazanowski.
Trump Backs off Total Authority: President Donald Trump backed away from his claim that he had total authority to order states to reopen the economy after a backlash from governors who said he was overstepping his constitutional powers. “They know when it’s time to open, and we don’t want to put pressure on anybody,” Trump said yesterday at a White House press briefing. “I’m not going to put any pressure on any governor to open.” Trump’s comments came a day after he said he had “the ultimate authority” to order states to comply with a federal plan to reopen the economy. His remarks sparked broad criticism from legal scholars and governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who warned of “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades” if the president sought to lift social-distancing requirements over states’ objections. Trump said a teleconference with governors would likely be held on Thursday, and predicted they will be “very, very respectful of the presidency.” When asked if he would withhold federal aid from states that don’t abide by his suggestions for a reopening strategy, Trump said he wasn’t making a threat and predicted state leaders “will listen” to his advice and requests. “We’re going to work with the governors. The governors are going to do a good job,” Trump said. “And if they don’t do a good job, we’re going to come down on them very hard. We’ll have no other choice.” The president did say the federal government would block governors from ending social-distancing practices early if federal health officials determined it was unwise, adding that he wanted states like New York — the epicenter of the pandemic — to take their time coming back online.
Trump’s remarks appeared to be a reversal after legal experts and some governors disputed his claim that he had the authority to order states to comply with his wish to reopen businesses. The 10th Amendment to the Constitution reserves for states all powers that aren’t specifically granted to the federal government. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Justin Sink.
Trump to Talk to CEOs: Trump said he’s tapping the country’s most prominent business executives, including Jamie Dimon, Tim Cook and Doug McMillon, to help revive the economy as the coronavirus pandemic shows signs of easing in some parts of the country. “They’re going to give us some ideas,” Trump said yesterday at the briefing, where he unveiled a sprawling list of dozens of CEOs from industries ranging from agriculture to defense. He said the leaders would participate in “economic revival” groups, but didn’t elaborate on how they may shape the administration’s policies. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs.
Separately, the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group representing chief executives of major companies, urged the White House to follow a strategy of reopening the economy from the coronavirus pandemic that is “guided by public health officials.” The group’s president, Joshua Bolten, wrote in a letter to the White House yesterday that the administration should make public safety a priority, underscoring the need for federal guidance. Read more from Ben Brody.
Automakers Will Need Months to Restart Factories: Automakers are anxious to get their assembly lines rolling again, especially since leaving factories idle is costing them billions of dollars by the week. But the experience many of them have had in China illustrates just how long a slog it’s going to be before plants are producing at anywhere near pre-shutdown levels. It took almost two months for most of China’s industry to return to some semblance of normalcy — and that was with the benefit of mobile apps the government installed on citizen s’ cell phones to track their movements and potential exposure to Covid-19 infected people. Read more from Gabrielle Coppola.
Research Efforts, Testing and Treatments
State Coalitions Race to Fight Virus: U.S. states are creating separate and growing confederations to set common policies on coronavirus tests, tracking patients and setting standards for resuming social and economic life. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) yesterday laid out rough benchmarks for reopening his state’s economy — and radically reshaping daily life — as he tried to bring other states into his West Coast coalition to fight the new coronavirus. The move came as New York Gov. Cuomo, who has marshaled seven Northeastern states, sparred with Trump over re-opening. And in the Midwest, another group of states is considering its own unified effort.
The remarkable ad hoc efforts, while more concrete than any plans publicly advanced by the federal government, also raised the possibility of a nation split into discrete regions, with their own standards and timelines for easing stay-at-home orders. That could hamper the larger fight against a virus that has already killed more than 25,000 Americans, as experts warn that lifting restrictions too soon would risk another surge of infections. Read more from David R. Baker and Brian Eckhouse.
Trump Halts WHO Funding: Trump said he’s instructed his administration to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organization for taking Beijing’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value” and failing to share information about the virus as it spread. “The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said at a White House press conference yesterday. “The outbreak could have been contained at its source” if the organization had correctly responded early on, he added.
Trump is likely to get full support from Republicans in Congress. Several GOP lawmakers, such as Sens. Martha McSally (Ariz.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), who yesterday sent a letter to the WHO requesting information ahead of a congressional investigation into the organization’s role “helping Communist China cover up information regarding the threat of the Coronavirus,” according to a press release. The U.S. has contributed about $893 million to WHO’s operations during its current two-year funding cycle, according to the organization.
House Democrats denounced Trump’s decision, saying he lacks the legal authority to do so and, like his withholding of aid to Ukraine, it would be a violation of the law. “In a desperate attempt to deflect blame, President Trump is threatening to violate the same spending laws that brought about his impeachment,” House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said in a statement. “The president does not have the unilateral authority to withhold the United States’ assessed contribution to the World Health Organization.” Jordan Fabian has more.
China criticized the move and pledged to support the global health body. China has “serious concerns” about the decision and called on the U.S. to fulfill its responsibilities, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a briefing in Beijing today. “This U.S. decision will weaken the WHO’s capabilities and undermine international cooperation,” Zhao said, adding: “China will as always support the WHO in playing an important role in international public health and global anti-epidemic response.” Read more.
U.S. to Boost Payment for Abbott’s Covid-19 Test: The U.S. government will nearly double the amount it pays hospitals and medical centers to run Abbott Laboratories’ large-scale coronavirus tests, an incentive to get the facilities to hire more technicians and expand testing that has fallen significantly short of the machines’ potential. Abbott’s m2000 machines, which can process up to 1 million tests per week, haven’t been fully used because not enough technicians have been hired to run them, according to a person familiar with the matter. Me mbers of the White House’s coronavirus task force talked with lab directors on several occasions last week to determine what was causing the holdup, after Deborah Birx, a top State Department health official, said they were running at less than 10% of their capacity.
The reasons behind the delay were inexcusable to Birx and Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. The two officials acted quickly over the weekend to address the issue, and raised the amount CMS pays to $100 per test, up from about $51, the person said. Read more from Michelle Fay Cortez.
Questions About Coronavirus Immunity: Understanding the level of viral immunity in survivors of Covid-19 will prove key in making decisions about how and when to lift restrictions. But not all virus infections result in life-long protections. For example, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, doesn’t usually provide any protective shield. When it comes to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, little is known yet about the body’s immune response to an infection, health specialists say. Read more from Kristen V Brown.
Airlines, Treasury Reach Tentative Deal: U.S. airlines have struck preliminary agreements with the Treasury Department to access billions of dollars in aid as the government attempts to shore up one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The deal covers all major carriers, the Treasury said in a statement. American Airlines, for example, said it would get $5.8 billion in total support while Southwest Airlines said it will receive $3.2 billion. The government is doling out $25 billion in payroll assistance allocated for passenger carriers in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law March 27. Read more from Saleha Mohsin and Mary Schlangenstein.
Atlanta Gets Most of Airport Grants: A pool of $10 billion in federal grants to U.S. airports are ready for delivery, Alan Levin reports. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, the biggest U.S. airport, will get the largest grant at $338.5 million, and Los Angeles International will receive the second-largest grant at $323.6 million, Courtney Rozen reports. The FAA provided a list of the hundreds of grants, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the money is being sent as soon as possible to help the industry that has seen a reduction of more than 95% of airline passengers. “This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” Chao said in a statement. The money can be used for payroll, utilities, debt payments and capital expenditures. The normal process that requires airports to spend a portion of their own money on projects funded under such grants is being waived so that the funds can go directly to helping airports, the Transportation Department said. The funding was ordered by Congress under the third coronavirus relief law (Public Law 116-136) in a $2 trillion aid package. Airports Council International – North America, which represents U.S. airports, estimated a $23 billion loss in revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic in an analysis released this month.
Transport on Trump’s List for Re-opening Consult: President Donald Trump said at a White House briefing yesterday that he would be discussing ways to revive the U.S. economy as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis with chief executives from some of the largest U.S. companies, Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs report. Transportation companies involved include FedEx, United Airlines, UPS, J.B. Hunt, YRC Worldwide, Crowley Maritime, Tesla, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and several energy companies, among others, according to a statement from the White House.
Pilots Barred From Taking Drug Trump Touts: Airline pilots who take either of the two drugs, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, Trump has touted for use against Covid-19 are disqualified from flying, the FAA warns. “There is currently no satisfactory scientific evidence that use of these medications decreases the severity of Covid-19,” said Penny Giovanetti, the director of the FAA’s Medical Specialties Division. “There is no evidence that these medications prevent Covid-19 infection.” For years the two drugs have been on the agency’s lengthy list of substances it prohibits for cockpit crews, either because they can impair performance or cause health risks. Because it’s currently impossible to know the doses needed to prevent infection — a use of the drug that’s not approved — the FAA can’t perform a risk assessment. The agency says pilots should steer clear until more studies can be done, Alan Levin reports.
Airlines See Billions in Lost Ticket Sales: The airline industry said it may surrender $314 billion in ticket sales to the coronavirus this year, 25% more than previously expected, because of longer-than-expected lockdowns and the increasing toll on the global economy. Social-distancing norms when air travel resumes, which may require airlines to leave one in three seats empty, could further hamper revenue, the International Air Transport Association said yesterday. The economic dislocation will eliminate 55% of the annual passenger revenue that global carriers were expected to generate before the crisis began, Brian Pearce, IATA’s chief economist, said on a conference call. The pace of the return will also have an impact on the aircraft manufacturing duopoly of Airbus and Boeing, and their constellation of suppliers that depend on fresh orders. Read more from Siddharth Philip.
Infrastructure Winners Won’t Be Just Roads: As the U.S. government considers using infrastructure spending to cushion the economic pain of the Covid-19 pandemic, investors might want to take a look at well-positioned construction and broadband, Felice Maranz and Esha Dey report. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that including an infrastructure bill may have to wait until a fifth stimulus package. Should a plan eventually advance, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sonia Baldeira said potential beneficiaries may include telecoms and utilities, particularly in 5G and efficient electric grids. There’s also a need for better transportation, including highways and airports. Morgan Stanley analysts said high-speed charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, enhancement of the electric grid to support electric cars, as well as battery manufacturing and recycling are among areas that badly need improvements.
T&I Bill Aims to Spur Rural Internet Access: Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, yesterday introduced a bill (H.R. 6491) that’s aimed at speeding up broadband capability in rural areas. Graves, along with Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), who’s the top Republican on the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management subcommittee, unveiled the measure to clarify that distressed communities that form public-private partnerships are eligible for Economic Development Administration grants to support broadband projects. “The ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important broadband access is for strengthening emergency preparedness and response,” Katko said in a statement.
America’s Empty Roads: Fewer Deaths But a Blow to State Budgets: Motorists on a typical weekday log roughly 200,000 trips on North Carolina’s Triangle Expressway in the Raleigh-Durham region, many of them commuters headed to the state’s Research Triangle Park. But on the first Monday in April, just 69,000 tolls were collected.
Similar scenes are playing out across the U.S. as Americans drive roughly half as much as they did before the coronavirus prompted broad stay-at-home directives to combat the spread. Plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike now sit mostly empty, while Google Maps show freeways around Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta usually choked with traffic now largely free of cars.
The impact goes beyond idle toll booths. Fewer drivers are getting into accidents, resulting in a drop in deaths as well as premium refunds by auto insurers. Gasoline demand and sales have collapsed, prompting regulators to approve the extended use of wintertime blends. Greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants and other sources in the U.S. are forecast to decline by a whopping 7.5% this year. And state budget officers are fretting over a sharp decline in revenue from gasoline taxes and o ther sources tied to driving. Read more from Ryan Beene.
Transit Worker Guidance: The Federal Transit Administration released coronavirus safety guidelines for transit workers yesterday, as workers increasingly report that their employers aren’t protecting them from the disease. Transit workers in cities across the country have said they aren’t receiving the protective equipment they need, CityLab reports. In New York City, Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees have said that the agency’s slow response to the pandemic was partly to blame for the high number of deaths in the past month. In Boston, where at least 53 employees of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority have tested positive for the coronavirus and one has died, the local union is appealing to state lawmakers to include transit workers in legislation designed to ensure emergency leave for workers infected by Covid-19 .
Biden Relishes in One-Two Punch of Sanders, Obama Endorsements: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barack Obama’s back-to-back endorsements this week cemented the Democratic Party behind Joe Biden as the presumptive nominee and demonstrated the careful calculus of party leaders to unite its once-warring progressive and moderate wings. First came the vanquished rival. The Biden camp wanted Sanders to endorse before Obama to ensure the Vermont senator was genuinely behind the campaign, according to a Democrat familiar with the campaign’s strategy. It also allowed Obama to swoop in to close the Democratic contest, using his power as the party’s undisputed leader to unite the factions represented by the two candidates. The danger for Biden is that with the coronavirus pandemic sidelining political events, he may miss the full effect of what could have been one of his biggest campaign moments to date. With the nominating convention potentially in doubt, he can’t afford to miss too many other headline moments, especially with an incumbent dominating the day’s headlines with a daily briefing. Read more from Tyler Pager.
Trump’s GOP Blames China for Coronavirus With Eye on 2020: Republicans are ratcheting up efforts to paint China as the villain in the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to shift blame as Trump faces increased criticism of his handling of a crisis that has shuttered the U.S. economy. The Trump campaign yesterday sent out a fundraising email that accused China of “lying” about the outbreak and saying the country must be held accountable, language that is harsher than the president has used himself. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that would make the Chinese government liable for civil claims in U.S. courts if it’s found to have withheld information related to the virus. And House Republicans’ election committee issued a statement calling a freshman Democrat who flipped a Republican-held seat in 2018 a “Chinese asset.” Read more from Mario Parker and Billy House.
States Lagging in Mail Voting: Eight states lag behind the rest of the nation when it comes to vote-by-mail or expanded absentee ballot access in response to Covid-19, according to anti-corruption advocacy group Represent Us. The bipartisan national campaign wants all 50 states to make Vote by Mail available for the November election, given the health risks that could come from crowded polling locations. The “Late Eight” are Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, Shaun Courtney reports.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Supreme Court said no to all-mail voting for the state’s June 2 primary, despite concerns about the health of voters and election workers during the pandemic, Brenna Goth reports.
Kentucky voters will be required to show a photo ID to cast votes for president under a law enacted by the Republican-led state Legislature over the Democratic governor’s veto, Alex Ebert reports.
Louisiana Postpones Democratic Primary: Louisiana voters will for now be the last to select their preferences for presidential nominees after Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) postponed the primary date to July 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the second time Edwards has pushed back the election date in response to the spread of the virus. The election was originally scheduled for April 4 and delayed until June 20. Louisiana has been hard-hit by the coronavirus, with 21,518 cases and 1,013 deaths. Read more from Gregory Korte.
Other News Stories
New York Sues Trump Administration Over Covid-19 Paid Leave: The Trump administration is unlawfully excluding many workers from new coronavirus-related paid leave benefits, New York’s top attorney said in a lawsuit. A recent Labor Department regulation denies emergency paid sick and family leave to health-care employees and other workers Congress intended to cover, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged in a complaint filed yesterday. Read more from Ben Penn.
Guatemala Says Infected Deportees Caused Virus Spike: Deportees from the United States are causing the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Guatemala to rise, Health Minister Hugo Monroy said yesterday. Between 50% to 75% of people recently deported from the U.S. have tested positive for the virus, Monroy said after visiting Congress to discuss the outbreak with lawmakers. He insisted the U.S. send deportees to Guatemala with health documents certifying they are virus free, Michael McDonald reports.
Thompson Says DHS Watchdog to Testify: House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he received notice from DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari that he amended his office’s public summary of a report examining the death of an eight-year-old Guatemalan child in U.S. Border Patrol custody in December 2018, according to a statement from Thompson. Cuffari says he is committed to testifying publicly before Thompson’s panel about child deaths in CBP custody, Thompson said in the statement. Read the letter here.
Republicans Show Inspector General Support: Two Republican senators, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), said in a letter yesterday to Trump that inspectors general are important, particularly in times of crisis such as the pandemic, and urged him to not rely on acting IGs but to nominate ones to execute the posts in a formal capacity. Trump has recently ousted and criticized several inspectors general in recent weeks, including two leading coronavirus-related efforts and the intelligence community’s watchdog whose report to Congress led to Trump’s impeachment. Read the letter here.
Court OKs Review of Md. Transit Project: The Clean Water Act permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted to allow Maryland transit officials to discharge dredge and fill materials into nearby waters during construction of the Purple Line wasn’t improper, a Maryland federal court ruled. The 16.2-mile light-rail transit line will connect Bethesda to New Carrollton, Md. Maya Earls recaps the case.
Missouri Woos Tesla With $1B Package: A small Missouri city is trying to lure Tesla with big bucks, Ed Ludlow reports. The city of Joplin, near Missouri’s borders with Oklahoma and Kansas, is seeking to tempt the electric-car maker with $1 billion in incentives and savings to build a new factory for its futuristic Cybertruck.
Today on the Hill
- 10:00 am – Trump hosts a phone call with banking, financial services, food and beverage, hospitality, and retail industry groups
- 12:00 pm – Trump President hosts a phone call with healthcare, tech, telecommunications, and transportation industry groups
- 2:00 pm – Trump hosts a phone call with agriculture, construction/labor/workforce, defense, energy, and manufacturing industry groups and thought leaders
- 3:30 pm – Trump hosts a phone call with sports industry groups
- 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing
- On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th
- On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th
Legislation Introduced Yesterday
- H.R.6491— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 to provide for a high-speed broadband deployment initiative.
- H.R.6492— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require any payments of principal or interest on a residential mortgage loan that are deferred during a COVID-19 emergency period to be due no earlier than the last day of the loan term, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6493— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the ability of veterans to access and submit disability benefit questionnaire forms of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- H.R.6494— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To make available insurance coverage for business interruption losses due to viral pandemics, forced closures of businesses, mandatory evacuations, and public safety power shut-offs, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6495— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title XI of the Social Security Act to eliminate the general Medicaid funding limitations for territories of the United States, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6496— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide for the issuance of emergency monthly payments to every American throughout the duration of the coronavirus crisis to be provided by the Department of Treasury, in consultation with other Federal and State agencies.
- H.R.6497— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To make available insurance coverage for business interruption losses due to national emergencies, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6498— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish special temporary rules relating to the charitiable deduction for the donation of hand sanitizer by a distilled spirits operation, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6499— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain lands as the Los Caminos del Rio National Heritage Corridor, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6500— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To reduce Federal spending and fund the acquisition of unexpired personal protective equipment (including face masks) for the strategic national stockpile by terminating taxpayer financing of Presidential election campaigns.
- H.R.6501— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To strengthen the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6502— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for deferral of loan repayment for graduates during the period of the coronavirus.
- H.R.6503— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide housing support services to the elderly and individuals with disabilities living in Federal Government housing or federally subsidized housing during the Pandemic or Declared Public Health Emergency.
- H.R.6504— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to develop a plan to improve surveillance with respect to diseases that are viral pandemic threats, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6505— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to clarify the role of the National Biosurveillance Integration Center of the Department of Homeland Security regarding an emerging highly communicable infectious disease event of national concern, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6506— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Small Business Act to modify the paycheck protection program, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6507— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to automatically extend the period of validity of an alien’s employment authorization during an emergency period, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6508— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title VI of the Social Security Act to expand the permissible use of funds under the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
- H.R.6509— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to provide public safety officer death and disability benefits for certain public safety officers who contract COVID-19, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6510— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Secretary of Agriculture to expand for all the States during the COVID-19 public health emergency declared under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, the program to approve retail food stores to accept through on-line transactions supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits provided under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
- H.R.6511— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend titles XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act to require coverage under the Medicaid program and Children’s Health Insurance Program for vaccines and treatment for COVID-19 without the imposition of cost sharing requirements, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6512— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require State and local election officials to conduct public education campaigns to notify individuals of changes in the administration of elections for Federal office in response to emergencies affecting public health and safety, to require the websites of such officials to be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and to meet best practices established by the National Institute for Science and Technology for ensuring the continuing operation of such websites in the event of emergencies affecting public health and safety, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6513— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To defer the year of inclusion for certain capital gains invested in a qualified opportunity fund.
- H.R.6514— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide premium assistance for COBRA continuation coverage and furloughed continuation coverage for individuals and their families during the COVID-19 emergency period and 180-days thereafter, and for other purposes.
- H.Res.921— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Celebrating the 129th anniversary of the birth of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.
- H.Res.922— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that all nations should permanently close live wildlife markets and that the People’s Republic of China should cease spreading disinformation regarding the origins of coronavirus.
- H.Res.923— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing the contributions of distribution and warehousing workers during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
- H.Res.924— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Promoting minority health awareness and supporting the goals and ideals of National Minority Health Month in April 2020, which include bringing attention to the health disparities faced by minority populations of the United States during the novel coronavirus global pandemic.
- H.Res.925— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the powers of the president remain limited by the Constitution and laws of the United States.