COVID-19 Federal Update 4-30-20

April 30, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 54,877, Tuesday, 56,253, Wednesday, 58,355, Thursday, 60,999.

Happening on the Hill

  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is holding a virtual roundtable at 9 a.m. via video conference on the continuity of the Senate and remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is scheduled to hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hosts a press call at 1 p.m.
  • The Senate holds a pro forma session today at 1 p.m.

Coronavirus and TSA Workers: House Homeland Security members — Transportation & Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairman Lou Correa (D-Calif.), along with Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Val Demings (D-Fla.) — will hold a virtual roundtable this morning on how coronavirus has affected the Transportation Security Administration workforce and what Congress can do to assist those frontline workers. Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, will also join the discussion.

Feinstein Opposes Reconvening: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to reconsider his plan to bring the Senate back next week amid the pandemic. “It is clear that we remain in a critical time,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Returning the Senate for non-essential business is not worth the risk.” The House scrapped its plans to return next week citing the continued risk from the coronavirus, Ben Livesey and Steven T. Dennis report.

  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing May 6 on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.
  • The next day, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee plans to hold a hearing to examine new tests for the coronavirus.
  • The Senate currently plans at least four hearings next week, according to a schedule on the chamber’s website.
  • The House Appropriations Committee also is planning to host an in-person committee hearing on May 6 on the Covid-19 response, with witnesses to be confirmed later this week, committee spokesman Evan Hollander said in an email.

Mnuchin Pressed for More Aid: The House’s tax writers yesterday made their case to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for expanding relief for businesses, a conversation that comes as lawmakers are starting negotiations on the next phase of the virus response. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) urged the treasury secretary in a teleconference to expand a tax credit for employers that retain their employees during the pandemic, a lawmaker on the call said. Read more from Kaustuv Basu.

DeFazio Asks FAA to Require Masks: House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) called on FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson to require masks or face coverings be used by all crew-members and all passengers on U.S. flights, according to a statement yesterday. DeFazio said that he also asked Dickson to force airlines to adopt “reasonable, sound procedures” including for passengers to be “spaced at safe distances from one another.” The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s “working with air carriers to ensure they have processes in place for addressing public hea lth risks,” Ben Livesey reports.

Thompson Calls for IG Probe of Racial Disparities: House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General regarding “healthcare disparities” in HHS’s response to the pandemic. Thompson requested the OIG to explore the department’s “past and present efforts to eliminate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health disparities” and offer ideas of lessening the effects of health disparities going forward. Read the letter here.

Also, Thompson and Homeland Security Counterterrorism Subcommittee Chairman Max Rose (D-N.Y.) in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf ask for information DHS had about Covid-19 in late 2019 and 2020, after press coverage suggests the intelligence community was issuing reports as early as November 2019. Read more from Ben Livesey.

Cooperation Urged in Serological Testing Probe: House Oversight Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) urged the FDA in a letter yesterday to comply with the subcommittee’s investigation into the agency’s policies on serological testing for coronavirus. “With many plans to reopen the economy requiring the availability of consistently reliable serological testing, we need your answers now while there’s still time to fix shortfalls in FDA policy,” Krishnamoorthi said. He cited “wide gaps” in the White House’s handling of serological tests, which can indicate if an individual has developed antibodies after being infected. Read the letter here.

Also yesterday, House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) called on the FDA to “swiftly end” the “current ‘free-for-all’ policy” on serological tests, demanding the agency “immediately require validation data” to help remove tests from the U.S. market that fail to meet this guidance. House Appropriations Labor-HHS Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) co-signed the letter, and she is looking to press the issue in hearings this year, Alex Ruoff reports. Read the letter here.


Reopening of States

Trump Says He’s Set to Visit Arizona: Trump said he expects to visit Arizona next week, as the administration forges ahead with its effort to urge states to reopen their economies. The tentative visit to Arizona, which is expected to be one of the key battleground states in the November election, could include a tour of a manufacturing plant that is making protective masks, people familiar with the matter said. But no final decisions have been made yet and the White House hasn’t chosen an exact date for any such trip. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs and Jordan Fabian.

Florida to Start Reopening on Monday: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) plans to start reopening the state this Monday, permitting restaurants and retail in most areas to resume business with certain limitations to prevent the virus’s spread. Speaking yesterday in Tallahassee, DeSantis said movie theaters and bars must remain closed for the time being throughout the state, and schools will continue to use distance learning. The reopening plans aren’t uniform across the state of 21.5 million people. DeSantis said the first phase of reopening would exclude the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, the state’s three most populous. Read more from Jonathan Levin.

Tech’s Virus Combat Plan Hinges on Still-Scarce Testing: Apple and Google earlier this month unveiled an ambitious plan to jury-rig billions of smartphones into coronavirus-tracking beacons, hoping to help public-health authorities fight the disease and pave the way to end lockdowns that have crippled the global economy. Now, just weeks after the announcement, the program is already facing serious challenges and it’s unclear whether the system will ever be used at a large scale. Persistent concerns about privacy, weak consumer adoption, and the lack o f a coordinated government effort on testing could all pose obstacles to the companies’ push. Some governments have already struck out on their own, building systems used by millions without needing Apple and Google’s help. Read more from Gerrit De Vynck.

FEMA to Drop Lead Role for Reopening: FEMA is trying to remove itself as the lead agency on the federal Covid-19 response and is in discussions to hand over its responsibilities to a different federal agency, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The move signals a shift in the White House’s agenda, from the initial scramble to increase the supply of necessary equipment to states and health-care workers to a longer-term strategy to reopen the nation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been running the pandemic response since last month. Read more from Shira Stein.  House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she is “very concerned” about FEMA’s withdrawal, saying “Trump seems to be declaring ‘Mission Accomplished,’ while hundreds of Americans are dying every day, communities across the country are facing critical shortages of test kits and life-saving medical equipment.”

Health Groups Warn Against Reopening Too Soon: More than 40 medical and public health associations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, are warning governments eager to reopen that easing restrictions too quickly could lead to “increased infections, illnesses and deaths, overwhelming health systems, prolonging the pandemic and extending economic hardships,” according to a statement yesterday, Jeannie Baumann reports.



Gilead Virus Drug Stirs Cautious Optimism: With competing data published on Gilead Sciences’ potential coronavirus drug, the jury is still out on how well it works, and there are two big reasons why.   While Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that a government-run trial has met its overall target, full details haven’t been published. At the same time, the only rigorous study for which full data is public, a Chinese trial published in The Lancet medical journal yesterday, is showing the opposite.  The dueling trials are the latest example of how science has taken a back seat to optimism in the rush to pave a way out of the coronavirus crisis that’s paralyzed economies worldwide. Dozens of companies are studying 11 potential therapies and 137 vaccines in a push to get the virus under control. Gilead’s experimental drug remdesivir—which had already been tested against other coronaviruses—is one of the most closely watched.

“It’s not just a single trial that’s going to hold the truth here,” said John Norrie, a professor of medical statistics and methodology at the University of Edinburgh. The real implication of the U.S. government study won’t be clear until it’s been scrutinized by outside scientists and published in a top medical journal, he said. “The bottom line is, you can’t rely on press releases,” Norrie said.  Still, early glimmers from encouraging data are poised to increase pressure on U.S. regulators to clear a path for remdesivir to reach the market. Trump, who has aggressively pushed for experimental therapies to treat Covid-19, praised the findings as a major step forward and nodded toward an eventual approval of the medicine by the Food and Drug Administration.

A decision on the medication may come as soon as this week, with FDA officials saying they have been working closely with Gilead. “I want them to go as quickly as they can,” Trump said. “We want everything to be safe. But we would like to see very quick approvals, especially with things that work.”   Scientists will be seeking out the answers to the same major questions that are asked of any clinical trial. They’ll want to know if remdesivir worked, if it’s safe to take, and if there’s a good biological explanation for how patients fared. They’d also want to know the results of the entire trial. Most of those questions remain open. Michelle Fay Cortez and Naomi Kresge have more.

Remdesivir Courses are Ready to Ship: Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said there are more than 50,000 courses of the company’s experimental Covid-19 therapy, packed in vials and ready to ship as soon as the drug is authorized for emergency use by U.S. regulators. O’Day said the company had been in constant communication with regulators at the FDA, and these communications have picked up in intensity in the last few days as the results of big trials have started to roll in.  While a formal approval would likely take months and require far more robust results than what the company has revealed so far, during the outbreak the FDA has shown a willingness to clear medical products for emergency use with far less data than usual. Read more from Robert Langreth.

Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Aims to Rush a Vaccine The Trump administration is quietly organizing a Manhattan Project-style effort to drastically slash the time needed to develop a SARS-Cov-2 vaccine, with a goal to have 100 million doses ready by year’s end, according to two sources familiar with the matter.  Called “Operation Warp Speed,” the program will group private pharmaceutical companies, federal agencies and the military to try to cut development time for a vaccine by up to eight months, according to one of the sources. As part of the arrangement, taxpayers will shoulder much of the financial risk that the vaccine candidates might fail, rather than drugmakers.  The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine. Fauci has repeatedly said that a coronavirus vaccine won’t be ready for 12 to 18 months at best. Until then, White House guidelines envision some economically damaging social-distancing efforts maintained even as the U.S. starts to resume a more normal social and business life. Trump last month directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to speed development of a vaccine, and administration officials have been meeting on the effort for three to four weeks, one of the people said. A meeting on the project was scheduled at the White House yesterday. Jennifer Jacobs and Drew Armstrong have more.

AstraZeneca to Make Oxford Vaccine: AstraZeneca agreed to make an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University researchers. Astra’s tie-up with Oxford shows how developers are aiming to manufacture vaccines before they’ve cleared human tests so they can be distributed as soon as possible. “We should know relatively soon if it does work or not,” Astra CEO Pascal Soriot told BBC radio. “By June, July, we will already have a pretty good idea.” Read more from Marthe Fourcade and John Lauerman.

Contest for Covid-19 Tests Planned: The National Institutes of Health is urging scientists and investors to compete in a $500 million national challenge that will help it identify the best candidates for at-home or point-of-care tests for Covid-19. The NIH is likening that program to “Shark Tank,” the reality television show in which entrepreneurs compete for financial backing. Scientists and innovators will vie for a share of a $500 million fund that will be awarded to those with the most promising tech. Finalists will also be matched with technical and business experts to help advance their products.  The NIH says the objective is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests per week available to all Americans by the end of summer 2020, and even more in time for the flu season. The contest is part of a new program called the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, which received $1.5 billion in U.S. funding, the agency said yesterday. Read more from Riley Griffin.

Trump Cites U.S. Testing for Number of Cases: Trump credited expanded U.S. testing for coronavirus for the 1 million cases the nation has reported, by far the most in the world. “That’s a tremendous amount,” Trump said at a White House event. “It’s a number that in one way sounds bad but in another is an indication our testing is more superior,” he said. U.S. testing for coronavirus infection was delayed compared to other countries, in part due to failures by the government. The country didn’t exceed 100,000 Americans tested for the disease until March 19—eight weeks after the first U.S. case was reported Jan. 20, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. Read more from Justin Sink.

Apple-Google Virus Combat Plan Hinges on Testing: Apple and Google earlier this month unveiled an ambitious plan to jury-rig billions of smartphones into coronavirus-tracking beacons, hoping to help public-health authorities fight the disease and pave the way to end lockdowns that have crippled the global economy. Now, just weeks after the announcement, the program is already facing serious challenges and it’s unclear whether the system will ever be used at a large scale. Persistent concerns about privacy, weak consumer adoption, and the lack o f a coordinated government effort on testing could all pose obstacles to the companies’ push. Some governments have already struck out on their own, building systems used by millions without needing Apple and Google’s help. Read more from Gerrit De Vynck.

Bill Would Federalize Medical Supply Chain: Senate Democrats will press for legislation to use the Defense Production Act to bump up production of testing supplies, personal protective equipment and other medical gear, they said in a written statement yesterday. Their bill would require weekly public reports on assessments of equipment supplies, identify which manufacturers are ready to fill orders, and establish an executive officer post appointed by the secretary of Defense to oversee acquisition and logistics. Read more from Kathleen Miller.

Scientists Targeted for Next Relief Bill: Scientists forced to halt their studies due to the pandemic would receive gap funding under a proposal by the same two lawmakers behind the nation’s landmark biomedical innovation law. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) propose the next coronavirus relief package to include $26 billion in funding, which they said would help out hundreds of thousands of graduate students, postdoctoral students, principal investigators, and other technical support staffers at risk of losing their employment. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

N.Y., N.J. Receive Lowest Aid Amounts: As of April 24, the federal government has spent $39.2 billion out of the $175 billion earmarked for U.S. hospitals and providers, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg Government. Most of that money, about $30 billion, went out in the second week of April through the first “tranche,” while the second, $9.1 billion tranche was distributed slower, Alex Ruoff reports.   Despite having the highest number of cases, New York and New Jersey saw the lowest amount per confirmed case of the coronavirus, with $9,393 and $10,631 respectively, while West Virginia and Montana got the most per confirmed case, at $286,480 and $280,217 respectively. Bloomberg Law has previously reported on the trend in earlier funding rounds.

Pompeo Blames China for Global Outbreak: China poses a threat to the world by hiding information about the origin of the new coronavirus that it allowed to spread around the globe, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a television interview yesterday. The top U.S. diplomat ramped up the accusations between the U.S. and China over the virus. White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, also said today that Trump has ordered a probe into the origins of the coronavirus and will hold those responsible accountable for its spread. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Detention Facilities’ Virus Rules Upheld: Challenges to policies implemented by the federal government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in immigration courts and detention centers were tossed by a U.S. district court yesterday. The polices include distancing protocols, and suggest waiving in-person hearings in favor of internet and telephone conferences. They also force visitors to provide and wear protective gear and require monitoring. The plaintiffs, five detainees and three immigration organizations, sought a temporary restraini ng order on grounds it violated due process. Read more from Bernie Pazanowski.

Separately, a New York-led group of states asked a judge to temporarily halt the White House from screening out green card applicants who Trump says will become dependent on public benefits, arguing that such test would put immigrants at risk during the pandemic. New evidence about the impact of the outbreak on immigrant communities justifies blocking the rollout of the revised Public Charge Rule despite Trump’s recent victories over challenges to the directive, three Democratic attorneys genera l told a federal court in a filing. Read more from Erik Larson.




Mnuchin Sees No More Aid for Airlines: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he isn’t considering providing additional money to help airlines reeling from the impact of Covid-19, Saleha Mohsin reports.  U.S. airlines reached deals to access a share of $50 billion in federal payroll assistance to bridge funding gaps as the industry waits for customers to start flying again. Companies accepting the aid can’t furlough or reduce wages for workers until Sept. 30. “At the moment there are no thoughts for changing those restrictions or additional money,” Mnuchin told reporters yesterday during a video conference. “This money was critical to keep the airlines together, which was important for national security.” Many airlines announced the possibility of thousands of job cuts after September, including United, Delta, and Southwest. Airline analyst Helane Becker of Cowen & Co. said as many as 105,000 jobs could be lost in the industry unless there’s a quick improvement in demand.

Half of the money Mnuchin is disbursing is in payroll grants, while the rest is in loans. He has so far doled out more than $12 billion to 93 companies, and more is expected to be sent out on a “rolling basis,” the department has said.  Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a Facebook chat with mayors yesterday that he is gearing up for a major push on an infrastructure plan. “We are still in on infrastructure,” he said Mnuchin told him.  “I intend to prod the administration to do precisely that,” Neal said.

Airlines Paid Not to Fly: Airlines being subsidized to serve the most remote U.S. airports can receive partial payments even if they cut flights during the new coronavirus epidemic under a plan announced yesterday. The Department of Transportation also said it doesn’t intend to enforce required levels of service if plummeting demand from Covid-19 causes airlines to halt flights.  The DOT said in its proposal that it would make adjustments to how it runs the Essential Air Service through June 30. The sometimes controversial program pays airlines to fly to about 160 remote cities that otherwise wouldn’t have air service. While it has been attacked as wasteful, Congress has continued to fund it. Alan Levin has more details on how the program is applied.

State of the Aviation Industry: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next week examining the effects of the coronavirus on the aviation industry. The May 6 hearing will address challenges resulting from the pandemic and implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136). Witnesses include Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association; Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America; and Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives.

DeFazio Urges FAA to Require Face Masks: House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) asked FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson to require masks or face coverings be used by all crew-members and passengers on U.S. flights, according to a statement. DeFazio said that he also asked Dickson yesterday to make airlines adopt “reasonable, sound procedures” such as having passengers be “spaced at safe distances from one another.”  In response to the discussion, the FAA said in a statement that it “is working with air carriers to ensure they have processes in place for addressing public health risks for their crews and passengers,” Ben Livesey reports.

Announcement on Oil Industry Aid Coming ‘Shortly’: The Trump administration may announce as soon as today a plan to offer loans to the ailing oil industry possibly in exchange for a financial stake, according to two people familiar with the matter. President Donald Trump said yesterday that the U.S. is not going to let oil companies down as they suffer from a price plunge and that an announcement on aid to the industry will come “shortly.” Mnuchin and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette have already briefed Trump on a plan to provide financial aid to oil drillers beset by a historic crash in prices, the people said. Brouillette, during a conference call Tuesday with an industry group, said Mnuchin was leaning toward aid that includes two separate programs — bridge loans and emergency lending authority through the U.S. Federal Reserve — designed to help smaller and medium sized companies. “This is not going to be a bailout,” Mnuchin told reporters in the White House yesterday. He said a team at both the Treasury and Energy departments are talking with people around the world and are considering “a lot of different strategies.”

Need for Speed on America’s Highways: Using technology that tracks automobiles and freight trucks, Inrix Research says traffic for personal use is down 46% since early March while truck movement is down just 13%. That’s relieving congestion in typically gridlocked cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where average travel speeds are up near 50%. Drivers are rolling along 40% faster around New York and 20% quicker in Chicago.  The point of Inrix’s research is to highlight how the reduction of traffic congestion around urban areas is allowing freight companies to get essential goods where they’re needed quickly. Brendan Murray has more highlights.

Tesla Webcast Attracts Millions: In a sign of how the coronavirus is changing car buying, millions of potential Tesla customers in China just tuned in to a celebrity-led online livestream touting the U.S. company’s vehicles. Buyers in the world’s biggest auto market are gradually warming to the idea of buying big-ticket items like cars via apps, social media and livestreaming sites that have become an important part of the e-commerce experience in China, suggesting successful automakers will need not just manufacturing prowess but also expertise in internet marketing to survive in the post-virus world. Read more from Bloomberg News.  Meanwhile, Elon Musk went on a profane rant during another emotive Tesla earnings call, excoriating stay-at-home orders that are putting the electric-car maker’s red-hot run at risk. “This is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” the chief executive officer said after reporting Tesla’s first-ever profit to start a year. “Give people back their godd— freedom.”  Tesla is worried about being able to resume production in the San Francisco Bay area, where authorities have extended a stay-home order to the end of May. Read more from Dana Hull, Gabrielle Coppola and Ed Ludlow.

U.S. Looking at GM as Part of UAW Corruption Probe: U.S. federal investigators looking into corruption at the United Auto Workers union have also been looking at GM’s dealings with UAW officials, Kim Chipman reports, citing Dow Jones. GM, in a statement to Bloomberg News, says it is “grateful for the government’s efforts to expose corruption” and that the company has been fully cooperating with investigators for almost three years.

New Hire on Pave Campaign: Ed Niedermeyer is joining PAVE as its communications director, according to his tweet yesterday. PAVE, or Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, is a coalition of industry, nonprofit and academic institutions sharing information on automated vehicles.



Road From Lockdown Paved With Tradeoffs: The world economy is entering a new stage of the pandemic as governments inch toward easing restrictions. It’s a phase that entails stark trade-offs between economic growth and the threat of another wave of infections and death. Some countries, such as China and South Korea, are firing up their economic engines already, having contained the virus—for now at least. Others, including hard-hit Italy and the U.S., are preparing to reopen their wounded economies even as they still fight to get a lid on the virus. Enda Curran and Claire Che take a look at where some economies are at on the reopening curve.

Trump Poised to Unveil Bridge Loans for Oil: The Trump administration may announce as soon as today a plan to offer loans to the oil industry, possibly in exchange for a financial stake, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mnuchin and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette have already briefed Trump on a plan to provide financial aid to oil drillers beset by a historic crash in prices, the people said. Brouillette, on a conference call with an industry group on Tuesday, said Mnuchin was leaning toward aid that includes two separate programs: bridge loans and emergency lending authority through the Federal Reserve. Saleha Mohsin, Ari Natter, and Jennifer Dlouhy have more.

Powell Warns More Action Needed: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called on lawmakers to deliver more fiscal stimulus to shield the U.S. economy from the coronavirus as he warned of a weak recovery even once the pandemic has subsided. “Economic activity will likely drop at an unprecedented rate in the second quarter,” Powell told a video press conference yesterday. “It may well be the case that the economy will need more support from all of us, if the recovery is to be a robust one.” Christopher Condon, Criag Torres, and Steven Matthews have more.

Wealthy Shielded Billions With Trump Tax Break: Just before the coronavirus roiled the economy, wealthy investors piled into funds that take advantage of a popular, two-year-old tax break meant to help poor communities. More than $10 billion in total has flowed into “opportunity zone” funds, a survey released today by tax adviser Novogradac shows. That’s up from the $6.7 billion the group tallied in January. Nearly all of the money was raised before mid-March, when Trump declared a national emergency to combat the virus. The haul could benefit low-income communities during major economic stress and help spur a post-pandemic recovery, Michael Novogradac, the tax adviser’s managing partner, said in a statement. Read more from Noah Buhayar.

Trump’s Meat Order No Quick Fix for Supply: A day after Trump’s unprecedented executive order to keep meat plants running, one more shut down. Another opened back up — but only to cull animals that can’t be processed. Those are the latest indications that the sweeping order is anything but a quick fix for supply-chain woes. Tyson Foods, the biggest U.S. meat processor, late yesterday said it was idling a beef facility in Nebraska for four days, with the news hitting just about 24 hours after Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to ke ep meat supplies secure. A JBS plant in Minnesota is starting a mass culling operation, destroying hogs that it can’t process into pork cuts until it’s able to get the protective equipment needed to restart. Read more from Michael Hirtzer and Lydia Mulvany.

Pentagon Weighs Space Industry Bailout: The Air Force and Space Force are feeling out the space industrial base for a potential bailout from Congress. The services said yesterday they have begun a survey on how coronavirus upheaval has stressed companies and increased the costs of existing programs as well as how stimulus funding could be used for small space vehicles, micro-electronics, and other areas that could be important to future operations. Read more from Travis J. Tritten.

Iraq Seeks More U.S. Virus Aid: Iraq is seeking financial relief from the U.S. to help the country combat the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and plummeting oil revenue, Baghdad’s health minister-designate said yesterday. “We have been promised by the United States government as part of this strategy between Iraq and United States to help us financially,” Jaafar Allawi said yesterday during an online policy forum organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Read more from Glen Carey.


Campaign Trail

Biden Launches Formal Search for Running Mate: Joe Biden has tapped four allies to lead a committee to advise him on his vice-presidential selection, a process that will be especially closely watched given his age and speculation that he might not seek a second term if elected. The co-chairs of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s panel are former Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Cynthia Hogan, a vice president for policy and government affairs at Apple as well as a former White House and Senate counsel to Biden. They will conduct conversations with Democrats across the party and work with the lawyers who are running the vetting process, Biden’s campaign said today. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Biden Open to Republicans in Cabinet: Biden said he would look at enlisting Republicans for his Cabinet, though not for his running mate. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said during a virtual fundraiser yesterday that a Republican would be considered for a position if they were “the best qualified person” to do the job. But he made clear the potential bipartisanship wouldn’t extend to his choice of vice president. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Democrats Struggle Over Biden Accuser: A former aide’s allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her 30 years ago has put Democrats into a quandary, as they attempt to square their support for the #MeToo movement with their backing of a nominee who now stands accused himself. Tara Reade says that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, Biden pushed her against a wall in a Senate office building and sexually assaulted her with his fingers. The allegations are particularly troubling for the Democrats who have taken a zero tole rance stance on sexual misconduct and were adamant in their support for Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh. Read more from Jeffrey Taylor and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

Cook Says Graham’s Odds of Re-election Slip: The Cook Political Report said today the South Carolina Senate race is now “Likely Republican” rather than “Solid Republican.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and ally of the president, is being challenged by Jaime Harrison, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party. Harrison outraised Graham in the first quarter.

China Denies Trump’s Claim It’s Trying to Make Him Lose: China rejected Trump’s claim that Beijing was trying to damage his re-election chances with its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as rhetoric between the world’s two largest economies continued to heat up. Trump said in an interview with Reuters published yesterday that China’s response to the disease was focused on a desire to see him lose in November. The president, who provided no evidence for why China would deliberately mishandle an outbreak that has killed more than 4,600 of its citizens, said he was considering various ways to punish Beijing. “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” Trump said in the Oval Office interview. He didn’t elaborate what punitive actions he might take, but added: “There are many things I can do.” The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded today that the country had “no interest” in interfering in internal U.S. affairs. Read more.


Other stories

White House Domestic Policy Chief Grogan Is Resigning: Joe Grogan, Trump’s chief of domestic policy, will be leaving the administration next month, a White House official said last night. He becomes the latest official to depart following the arrival of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has heightened tensions at the White House with a series of abrupt staff changes. Grogan, whose resignation was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, was considered an ally of Meadows’ predecessor, Mick Mulvaney. He previously worked at the White House Office o f Management and Budget when it was led by Mulvaney. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

More transitions: James Clapper, who served as U.S. Director of National Intelligence under the Obama administration, has joined the executive board at the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, according to a tweet.

Minnesota Clinic Sues to Stop Abortions: A Minnesota women’s health clinic that opposes abortions wants surgical abortions put on hold in the state under an emergency coronavirus executive order requiring the postponement of elective surgeries. Abortion providers have filed several lawsuits accusing states of “exploiting” the pandemic and using emergency orders to shut down the right to abortion. This appears to be the first complaint over a state’s failure to apply an order to halt surgical abortions. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

Kim’s Train Spotted, Leader Still Out of Sight: A train resembling the one used by Kim Jong Un was spotted again near a coastal leadership compound, according to satellite imagery analyzed by 38 North, as the North Korean leader’s unusual absence from public continued. The special train was seen yesterday parked at a station near the eastern resort area of Wonsan where it had been repeatedly spotted since April 21, 38 North reported, adding that it couldn’t be considered as proof of Kim’s presence. Speculation about Kim’s whereabouts have focused on the area, where a top South Korean foreign policy adviser said he’s been staying — “alive and well” — since April 13. Read more from Jon Herskovitz.


Today on the Hill


White House

  • 10:00 am – In-House Pool Call Time
  • 11:00 am – Trump meets with the Governor of New Jersey
  • 4:00 pm – Trump delivers remarks on protecting America’s seniors


  • Senate to return next week


  • Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to D.C. next week as planned, but negotiations and drafting of next stimulus bill can take place without most lawmakers in town



Legislation Updates from Yesterday

  1. H.R.6628— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to strengthen congressional control and review, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Yarmuth, John A. [D-KY-3] (Introduced 04/28/2020) Cosponsors: (2)Committees: House – Budget; Oversight and Reform; Transportation and Infrastructure; Rules; Foreign Affairs; Ways and Means; Judiciary Latest Action: House – 04/29/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

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