ABC - Politics News

MCCAIG/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday signed the massive $2 trillion stimulus package into law during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office.

"I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first," Trump said.

The House passed the bill, the largest aid measure in American history, earlier Friday in a voice vote after lawmakers were called back to the nation's capital to push the bill through.

The stimulus package will provide essential relief to American workers and an economy reeling from the coronavirus crisis

The White House and Senate negotiators struck a deal early Wednesday morning after days of late-night talks and the Senate unanimously approved the measure 96-0 on Wednesday.

Here are the key takeaways on who will get what and when:

Direct payments for most Americans taxpayers


Under the plan, individuals who earn $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400.

An additional $500 per child will be tacked on to that.

The payment would scale down as income rises, phasing out entirely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children.

Ninety percent of Americans would be eligible to receive full or partial payments, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center.

It’s unclear how long it will take the Internal Revenue Service to process and calculate each and every payment. The White House has indicated that Americans could be seeing direct payments as soon as April 6.

Expanded unemployment insurance


Lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would expand unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits -- an additional $600 per week - on top of what state unemployment programs pay.

In total, unemployed workers are eligible to receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.

The program was expanded to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber drivers.

The massive boost in unemployment insurance is expected to cost $250 billion.

Small business to receive emergency loans


The legislation creates a $367 billion federally-guaranteed loan program for small businesses who must pledge not to lay off their workers.

The loans would be available during an emergency period ending at the of June, and would be forgiven if the employer pays its workers for the duration of the crisis.

According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's office, the deal also includes $10 billion in Small Business Administration emergency grants and up to $10 million of emergency relief per business. It allocates $17 billion for the SBA to cover six months of payment for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

It will offer $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding.

Big companies get cash


The plan includes loans for distressed companies from a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve. An additional $75 billion would be available for industry-specific loans, including to airlines and hotels.

This was a major sticking point for Democrats: they successfully pushed for oversight, including the installment of an inspector general and a congressionally appointed board to monitor the fund.

The plan also calls for an immediate disclosure of the fund recipients.

The stimulus bill also includes a provision that forbids President Trump and his family, as well as other top government officials and members of Congress from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus, according to Schumer's office.

As part of the deal, airlines will be prohibited from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses, Schumer wrote in a letter Wednesday to Democratic senators.

Hospitals drowning under crisis to receive aid


The massive package also includes $100 billion in assistance for hospitals and health systems across the nation.

Schumer said the plan offers “billions more” for critical investments into personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, among other things.

Lawmakers also agreed to increase Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers, Schumer said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



narvikk/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government has been rolling out its response to the coronavirus crisis, trying to slow the spread and prop up the economy, which has taken a severe hit.

House lawmakers scrambled back to Washington Friday morning amid fears one GOP member of Congress would force a delay in the vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed unanimously by the Senate.

But early Friday afternoon, the Senate passed the measure -- despite an attempt from one Republican to delay the vote. It now heads to President Trump's desk.

Once quorum was established, GOP Rep. Tom Massie tried to ask for a recorded vote as expected, but without anyone to second his request, it quickly failed.

The historic measure passed through a voice vote.

Applause ensued around the chamber where lawmakers had spread out in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

House Democrats fear lone GOP member may object to quick voice vote

The possibility of the House passing the Senate-passed coronavirus relief bill in the fastest available way -- by unanimous consent or a simple voice vote -- is slipping away from Democrats as expectations grow that Rep. Tim Massie, R-Ky., will force delay the vote.

Late Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office urged members to return to Washington by 10 a.m. Friday to make a quorum, amid growing concern of COVID-19 spreading across the Capitol and country.

For today, a quorum constitutes 216 members, and if Massie notes the absence of a quorum, he could stop the proceedings until quorum is reached.

Once at least 216 members are present, the House could have a recorded roll call vote if one-fifth of the body -- or 44 members -- support it. If not, they could try to hold a voice vote again, and Massie's objection of the absence of a quorum wouldn't prevail.

Three hours of debate on the bill are expected in the morning before an effort to pass it by voice vote.

The eleventh hour concern over Massie prompted several House members to board near-empty planes headed to the nation's capital Friday morning.

Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota shared a photo of himself with three Minnesota lawmakers appearing to be the only passengers on a flight to Washington.

Just after midnight, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., posted a photo of a deserted LAX, noting he was traveling back to the chamber since other members can't for health reasons.

After calling Massie a "grandstander" at Thursday’s task force briefing, President Trump doubled down on his disapproval of the Kentucky congressman on Twitter Friday morning, even calling for Massie to be thrown out of the Republican party.

 

Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

 

In a series of tweets Friday afternoon, Massie indicated he will request the formal roll call vote.

 

It’s pretty clear now, with enough members here to pass the bill, that Pelosi and McCarthy are still working together to block a recorded vote just to insulate members of Congress from ACCOUNTABILITY.

Biggest spending bill in the history of mankind, and no recorded vote? #SWAMP

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 27, 2020

 

Trump changes tone, tells GM, 'START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!'

President Trump abruptly changed his tone on whether more ventilators were urgently needed as governors have been demanding.

In a series of tweets, he once again threatened to use the Defense Production Act, which he says he has activated but not actually employed, to force General Motors to make them-- as the federal government had been negotiating with the company to do so. He took aim at Ford as well.

He said "General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!"

 

General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

 

The tweets come after the New York Times reported his administration had delayed going forward with a government contract because of cost concerns over the $1 billion or more price tag.

Thursday night, in a 40-minute phone interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump suggested the number of ventilators being requested by governors to combat COVID-19 isn't necessary.

"I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be," he said. "I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they'll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they're saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'"

The president said that companies are stepping up and producing the "very, very expensive" ventilators and other pieces of equipment, but he also repeated that this was primarily a state responsibility.

"Remember, we are a second line of attack," Trump said. "The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospitals in the local government and the states. The states themselves."

Despite saying positive things about New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, Trump struck a sharply partisan tone at other moments. He called Washington Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, calling him a "failed presidential candidate" who "should be doing more."

He also referred to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, another Democrat, as "the young woman governor" and said she wasn't "stepping up."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- There is anger from Democratic members about the mixed messages being sent from Democratic leadership, sources tell ABC News.

Some are angry that they have to miss the vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, and others are frustrated with the lack of timing guidance. It was unclear to some members after a caucus call Thursday led by House Democratic leadership if they would be needed in Washington for a potential vote.

From the lawmakers traveling back to Capitol Hill, there are concerns about putting themselves and families at risk, given the chance that Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., could force a vote over his concerns about passing the largest stimulus package in American history without the majority of members required by the Constitution.

"Dear @RepThomasMassie: If you intend to delay passage of the #coronavirus relief bill tomorrow morning, please advise your 428 colleagues RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend ~200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt. #thankyou," Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., tweeted.

Dear @RepThomasMassie: If you intend to delay passage of the #coronavirus relief bill tomorrow morning, please advise your 428 colleagues RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend ~$200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt. #thankyou

— Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) March 26, 2020

"Non-sick members will pick it up and take it back to their families," the source added. "Also, many of them have not been tested yet."

Friday morning, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer said Democrats hope to have a voice vote, and told reporters that he hasn't spoken to Rep. Massie but he's spoken to McCarthy.

"I talked to McCarthy last night. We're working together to get this done," he said.

Republicans were also fuming they have to come back to Washington to vote on the bill.

"Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation. Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in the House. Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible," Rep. Peter King, R-NY, tweeted.

The president, as well, took to Twitter this morning to criticize the Kentucky congressman, calling him a "third rate grandstander" and for his removal from the Republican Party.

Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

Senior GOP sources say they are figuring out "contingency plans" if Massie does call for a roll call vote.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Lisa Ling doubled down on her criticism of President Donald Trump for referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus," saying the verbiage "seemed like a way to deflect attention from the fact that he was not taking [the virus] seriously for months."

The journalist and former co-host of The View returned to the Hot Topics table Friday via satellite from her home in Los Angeles, where the city is under an ordered lockdown amid the outbreak.

Ling took to Instagram on Wednesday to condemn the president for using the term "Chinese virus" instead of COVID-19.

"Since POTUS began referring to COVID19 as 'Chinese Virus,' attacks and insults directed toward Asians have risen sharply," Ling wrote on Instagram. "We are all in this together irrespective of where it allegedly started."

There have been physical assaults reported in New York, vandalism in California, and many more incidents of name-calling and similar discrimination, according to the civil rights coalition Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which created a website where Asian Americans could report bias incidents related to COVID-19.

"It’s here now and WE ALL need to defend against it," Ling continued in her post.

COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China as early as Dec. 31, 2019 when Chinese health authorities confirmed dozens of people in Wuhan were being treated for a mysterious pneumonia from an unknown source. Many of those sickened had visited a live animal market in Wuhan, but authorities claimed there was no evidence of the virus spreading from person to person.

On Jan. 11, 2020, Chinese media reported the death of a 61-year-old man who had visited the live animal market in Wuhan, the first death from novel coronavirus.

After backlash for saying "Chinese virus" when referring to COVID-19, Trump told Fox News on Tuesday he'd stop using the term and associating the virus with China, although he doesn’t “regret” the reference.

Ling spoke out about the president's language -- which a senior World Health Organization official condemned for stigmatizing certain ethnic groups --  on The View Friday.

"I was pretty astounded when he started calling the coronavirus the 'Chinese virus," Ling said. "It's been months since this crisis began and to me, it just seemed like a way to deflect attention from the fact that he was not taking it seriously for months and months."

"It seemed like he was deflecting blame," she added.

Co-host Meghan McCain also condemned the term's use, and asked Ling her thoughts on concerns of China's government covering up the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I by no means have any love or affection for the Chinese government," Ling premised. "I have found that their actions immediately after the virus was discovered in Wuhan, their actions have been indefensible."

Ling also recalled Dr. Li Wenliang, a Chinese health professional who tried to warn colleagues about the coronavirus, was reprimanded by local police for "spreading untruthful information online," and ultimately died from the virus.

"That doctor -- may he rest in peace -- that sounded the alarm, that this is something that we should be concerned about," Ling said. "The fact that he was arrested to me is unconscionable."

"We could sit here and blame China until we're blue in the face, but how is that going to help us right now?" Ling questioned. "We have just passed 1,000 Americans who have died of coronavirus. Our hospitals are hugely overwhelmed. There is this invisible and silent killer amongst us and we need to address it now."

"Focusing on blaming China isn't going to do us any good now," Ling added.

According to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 532,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, spanning every continent except Antarctica. At least 122,000 people have recovered worldwide.

With more than 85,000 diagnosed cases, the U.S has the highest national total, ahead of Italy and China.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus crisis weighs heavily on the American public: Seventy-seven percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say their lives have been disrupted, seven in 10 report personal stress and as many are worried that they or an immediate family member may become infected.

Forty-one percent in this national survey, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, say someone in their own community has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus; one in 10 (11%) personally knows someone who has been diagnosed with the disease.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE A PDF WITH THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

Testing remained an issue at the time of these interviews; 44% said there were people in their area who wanted a test but couldn’t get one. Reported unavailability of tests rises to 58% among those who reported diagnosed cases in their community, vs. 35% of those with no known local cases.

Personal concerns are amplified by painful economic disruption. As reported Thursday, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that one in three Americans say they or an immediate family member have been laid off or lost their job as a result of the pandemic, and 51% report a cut in pay or work hours. Ninety-two percent expect a recession.

In the political arena, President Donald Trump’s overall job approval rating advanced to his best on record in ABC/Post polls, 48%, even as 58% say he acted too slowly in the early days of the outbreak. This is the first time since he took office that Trump’s approval rating has exceeded disapproval of his work, 46% (though the difference isn’t statistically significant).

Fifty-one percent approve specifically of Trump’s handling of the outbreak; 45% don’t.

That said, there are substantial risks to the president. Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per-capita infection rates.

Some of this relates to the demographics of the affected states, and some reflect greater levels of apprehension among Trump’s critics. Nonetheless, the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.

Two comparisons underscore the extent of the crisis on a personal level. The number of adults who report experiencing stress as a result of the pandemic (70%) exceeds the highest level of stress caused by the Great Recession as measured in ABC/Post polls (61% in March 2009). And the 69% who are worried about infection in their immediate family far surpasses the highest level of such fears in past epidemics, 52% for swine flu in October 2009.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- In a teleconference with governors that lasted more than an hour Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump faced a barrage of compliments, concerns and in some exchanges, criticism as state leaders made it clear they want more assistance from the federal government to combat the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

According to detailed notes of the call obtained by ABC News, Trump kicked off the meeting by telling governors the federal government was managing the crisis at a "level that people find pretty impressive."

Every one of the more than a dozen governors who spoke during the call offered some sort of praise or thanks to the president, and many sought assurances that the federal government would take a more commanding role moving forward in marshaling the resources and personnel they still need to combat novel coronavirus in their states.

The Republican governor from Maryland, and chair of the Republican Governors Association, Larry Hogan, said the states have raised concerns to him that they need more help, adding that states who have requested federal assistance through disaster declarations need to be approved faster.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has a contentious history with Trump, said on the call that all 50 states remain "desperate for supplies."

Inslee showed frustration with the federal government’s response, which the president said was about backing up state-led efforts.

"The point I want to make is I don't want you to be the back-up quarterback, we need you to be Tom Brady here," Inslee said as he pleaded with the president by telling him he has "both the moral and legal authority" to fix problems with the lack of personal protective equipment and ventilators currently available to medical workers.

Trump replied to Inslee by laying blame at the feet of prior administrations, who he said left him a "broken system" that was "outdated" and assured the group the government will have the capacity to test "millions" of Americans after the work done on the coronavirus.

Even those governors who were most complimentary, like Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia -- who began his remarks with "a million thanks" to the president for his efforts -- said that his state was "right on the edge of a complete catastrophe.” Justice said there is a nursing home in the state that has seen a spike in coronavirus cases.

Justice again told the president the state was grateful, but said the nursing home was understaffed and they don't have the supplies they need.

The president replied that the government was working on his request for assistance, telling Justice that he didn't want a similar situation like what happened in Washington state, where an outbreak of COVID-19 in a life care center led to more than two dozen deaths, to also happen in West Virginia.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser voiced her frustration during the call about the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package approved by the Senate because she said the legislation labels D.C. as a territory and not a state -- meaning it would only receive $500 million in relief funds, rather than the $1.5 billion states would receive.

Bowser said the district was being "shortchanged" and asked the president if the bill could be fixed before the House votes on Friday.

The president told Bowser that the issue was already being discussed, and it would be added to this bill or the next bill. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he was already having conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the issue.

"We are going to be adding something into the next bill and it will happen fairly quickly," Trump said.

When Bowser pressed him on whether it could happen by Friday, Trump said he'd give it a shot, adding later, "We'll do it one way or another Muriel, we'll get it done."

As the call went on, governors tallied off their recent numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and how they have continued to rise. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said his state was in a "mad scramble" for personal protective equipment.

Trump made clear to governors he still had his mind set on opening the country as quickly as possible as jobless claims last week rose to historic levels of nearly 3.3 million Americans.

"We should put you on an early opening list," Trump said of the states who have not seen significant amounts of confirmed cases as of Thursday's meeting. "We can't keep everybody closed -- this country closed -- it's ridiculous. A lot of these states have to get back to work."

The comment came in response to remarks from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who told the group the state was running low on supplies, but added that if this lasts too long, many people will go broke, especially the small businesses.

One of the last to speak on the call was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has recently become one of the most public faces of America's handling of the pandemic as New York City has sought to slow a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.

In public remarks, Cuomo has walked a fine line in balancing the urgent public needs of his state, while mostly avoiding direct criticism of Trump's handling of the crisis -- a posture he echoed on the call.

"I want to just say we all stand with you," Cuomo said to the group. "The governors are not a hyper-political, hyper-partisan group. We all represent the people of our state."

Trump closed the call by making clear he was pleased with Cuomo's praise.

"Nonpolitical -- probably the greatest thing I heard today," Trump said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Shooter_Sam/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Though the Senate's passage of a $2 trillion stimulus package Wednesday night was regarded as progress in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, leaders of some of the nation’s most affected cities issued sharp criticism that it just wasn’t enough.

"The congressional action, in my opinion, simply failed to address the governmental need," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Thursday.

"The only thing it's doing is helping us in the COVID virus expenses, which is nice. But the bigger problem is on the lost revenues," said the governor, who is at the helm of the most infected state in the country. New York reported more than 30,000 cases as of Thursday, which is 15 times more than California and Washington state.

According to the bill, the allocation for New York, and the other 49 states, is determined by population, not by how severely the state is affected by coronavirus. That’s why New York state, which has plunged into debt fighting COVID-19, claims that the payment it is receiving is insufficient.

But every state is guaranteed at least $1.25 billion under the bill, which means states that are less populous than New York, such as Wyoming, or states with a higher population and fewer reported cases, such as Texas, could fare quite well. It's something Cuomo’s office has pointed to in frustration.

"The gross political manipulation is obvious," Dani Lever, communications director for Cuomo, said in a statement Wednesday -- subtly pointing out that both Texas and Wyoming are Republican states, while New York is a reliably Democratic state.

A few hundred miles south, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed frustration because her city wouldn’t receive even the minimum of $1.25 billion. Instead, the city -- which the bill will count alongside the territories even though all residents there pay federal income taxes -- would share one $3 billion dollar sum with the the other five U.S. territories, divided up by population.

By that math, the nation's capital is expected to receive $500 million.

The "very idea of being treated like a territory is shocking, infuriating. It’s wrong, it’s outrageous," Bowser said at a press conference Wednesday. "We pay more taxes than 22 states. We have a larger population than several states. ... It’s unconscionable to give D.C. the least amount of funding of any state."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the allocation for Washington "makes no sense" and suggested there could be other motivations for the perceived snub.

"It doesn't face the realities of a public health crisis that we have in our country and goes out of its way to do something so out of the ordinary," she said. "But it was a decision. It wasn't an accident. It was a decision. So let's make a decision to correct that."

As Pelosi hinted, both Cuomo and Bowser’s concerns could be taken up in the next round of stimulus efforts, which Congress is already looking into.

But for now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- who Cuomo was in touch with about his sharp criticism -- said New York should be happy with what it got.

"He wanted more to the state government and I told everybody he should take his case to Mitch McConnell," Schumer, who represents New York, said of his conversations with Cuomo during a press conference Wednesday evening.

New York residents will cumulatively get $40 billion in relief, Schumer said, because of the other assistance included in the bill that’s targeted at Americans, regardless of state -- relief that will go to small business owners, hospitals and unemployment insurance.

And in fact, the $2 trillion package will open the door for assistance far beyond even the states, local businesses across the country or hospitals.

Buried in 800 pages of text are clues to how how some Americans are going to experience a benefit from the stimulus package, and how some are missing out.

Who stands to gain?

The telehealth industry: The bill relaxes restrictions for in-home care, allowing more providers to do at home consultations and allowing more funding to allow for this care. Lawmakers emphasized telehealth care as one way to prevent non-critical COVID-19 patients from entering medical facilities and possibly spreading the virus.

Those requiring unemployment benefits: The bill increases state unemployment benefits, allowing those seeking unemployment to receive their state unemployment benefits, plus an additional $600 per month. Schumer called it "unemployment insurance on steroids." Those facing unemployment due to the virus will also be eligible for four months of benefits.

Local businesses: To call it a win might be a stretch, since many businesses have already had to lay off workers or permanently shutter as non-essential businesses across the country have been ordered to close. Still, the stimulus bill does allocate $350 billion for loans to be given to small businesses so that they can maintain payroll and cover other overhead expenses.

If small businesses are able to limit their layoffs and meet other requirements, these loans would turn into grants and be forgiven by the government.

Hospitals: Hospitals are getting money to support staff, enhance their capacities and equipment needs, and secure more personal protective equipment for health care workers.

The bill also allocates money for research into vaccines and treatments for coronavirus and places requirements on insurers to cover testing.

Some in need of fast cash: American adults who are making less than $75,000 singly or $150,000 jointly can expect to see $1,200 per adult in the coming weeks, plus an additional $500 per child. Single adults making less than $99,000 or couples making less than $198,000 will receive some money, though not the full $1,200 amount. Those whose income is above that threshold will not receive any money.

Undocumented workers: Those who file their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number have been left out, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. This means undocumented workers -- despite their enormous role in the economy -- are left out of relief policies, including checks that will be delivered to 90% of Americans for up to $1,200.

The cruise ship industry: Though President Donald Trump pointed to the industry as a "prime candidate" for some sort of federal relief package, there's no money in the bill allocated directly for cruises. The industry may be eligible to compete for loans coming out of the $500 billion fund managed by the Treasury.

Trump family companies and other companies owned by elected officials: Democrats lobbied hard for language in the bill that would prevent companies owned by the families of government officials from qualifying for federal loans under the bill. They won. Additional regulations on the $500 billion in Treasury loans were also written into the bill, including a special inspector general to examine the loans, a congressional oversight board and requirements for speedy public disclosure of the loans.

Oil and renewable energy: The original Republican proposal for the bill included support for the oil industry. Democratic negotiators countered, instead seeking new emissions standards and tax credits for solar energy. Neither prevailed. There are no oil benefits or green energy incentives in the bill.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After some legislative “jiujitsu,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she is “very proud” of the $2 trillion coronavirus crisis relief package the House is expected to vote on Friday morning and then send to President Trump, adding she feels "certain we will have a bipartisan vote.”

“Congressional Democrats in the Senate, and in the House, were able to flip this over from corporate trickle-down Republican version, to bubble-up for families first legislation,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “We have some other things we want to do, but first we want to take pride in what happens there.”

But before the House has even voted to send the bill to the White House, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Pelosi of lying about the negotiations, arguing the bill did not significantly change as Democrats fought for changes and delayed a vote this week.

"A few minutes ago, the speaker stood at this podium and claimed that House Democrats did what she called a jujitsu to change the bill. That is an outright lie," McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. "The fundamental portions of this bill has not changed [since] Sunday. Four months for unemployment was already decided on Sunday. The grant to keep employees hired on small business was already decided on Sunday. The only few additions were funding of things that had nothing to do with the coronavirus. Was that worth holding it up, and more people being laid off? More people losing sleep, more people wondering if they can continue? Those are the type of games that have to stop in Washington."

If those differences don't derail plans for passage on Friday, the House will to meet at 9 a.m. to hold a short debate and then approve the massive bill by voice vote, opting against a recorded roll call vote in order to avoid calling all 435 members back from recess to the Capitol.

President Trump speculated there could be "a grandstander" who requests a recorded vote in the House, delaying passage.

"It'll pass," he said. "It'll just take a little longer."

At her news conference, Pelosi, who turned 80 years old Thursday, dismissed concern that a single lawmaker will take advantage of current House rules to attempt to disrupt plans to approve the bill by voice vote by requesting a recorded roll call vote. Pelosi added she would not celebrate her birthday until she could hug her grand-babies.

“We will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers,” Pelosi predicted. “If somebody has a different point of view, they can put it in the record, but we're not worried about that.”

McCarthy also said he expects members to debate and then vote to approve the legislation in a bipartisan fashion. He said if members wish to speak on the floor, they will be sitting and standing far apart from one another, and they'll also have to wipe down the podium when they're done talking.

It remains an open question whether any Republicans or Democrats will disrupt plans for a voice vote, as Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie signaled he was not pleased the House would conduct business without a majority of its members present for consideration of the gargantuan package.

McCarthy wouldn't say whether any of his Republican members might object to a voice vote. Instead, he pointed at Democrats, specifically Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as a possible culprit.

"I've heard AOC. I've read something where she's thinking that she might do that. I think that is wrong," McCarthy reported. "We are going to have the opportunity to read the bill. I know it came out late last night. We've been keeping our members abreast of where the bill's at having worked on the bill for numerous days. They'll have the ability to read the text as well. We'll have debate, and then we'll have a voice vote. I do not think there's a need for anything else."

It's unclear how many members will turn out in person when the House considers the bill Friday, though Pelosi and McCarthy have risked their own personal health by remaining in town this week awaiting the Senate's passage of the bill.

More than a dozen members of the House of Representatives are in self-quarantine while two members announced they had positive tests for COVID-19. In the Senate, four Republicans missed Wednesday night's vote because they were in self-quarantine, including Sen. Rand Paul, who also tested positive for the virus.

The Offices of the House Sergeant at Arms and Attending Physician issued a memo Thursday announcing unprecedented changes in the Capitol for tomorrow’s vote, including limiting access for reporters.

“Members should use extreme care and deliberation when making the determination to travel to Washington, D.C,” the memo warned. “In all cases, Members and staff must maintain 6-foot social distance spacing as much as practicable when in the offices or the Capitol.”

The Speaker’s Lobby will also be closed to reporters, although the galleries on the balcony level will remain open to reporters. Anyone with a respiratory illness is also discouraged from attending the vote. In the event of a request for a recorded vote, members would vote alphabetically in groups of 30.

“Please note that throughout the vote, we will be monitoring the number of Members in the Capitol and on the Floor to ensure we maintain safe social distancing at all times,” the memo states. “Members who are ill with respiratory symptoms or fever are discouraged from attending.”

Pelosi listed several provisions she hopes will be included in future legislation – including a “better definition” of who qualifies for Family and Medical leave, stronger worker protections, expanded life pensions, an increase in food stamps, and more money for state and local governments.

With the Senate on recess until April 20, after Easter, Pelosi said she believes the House must be ready to potentially act again earlier.

"Everybody has to be on-call for what we need, when we need it, and we don't know what that might be,” she said. “But whatever it is, we'll be ready."

McCarthy downplayed the possibility of a fourth relief package after several Republicans and Democrats said that Congress may need to start working on its next emergency relief package to address the coronavirus crisis.

"You have to let the bill work before I can answer questions about 'is it enough?'" McCarthy said during a news conference at the Capitol. "You're sitting here talking about needing another bill? If these bills are done correctly, let them put them to work to get through this. If something is needed in the future, lets make that decision. But lets not make that decision without allowing these bills to be put into the economy."

Pelosi said she plans to continue working mostly in Washington, and encouraged the next bill to be negotiated on a bipartisan, bicameral basis.

“We really should be operating four corners,” Pelosi said, referring to the top House and Senate leadership. “This is all about the coronavirus. It's not about anything else. It’s about the coronavirus so this is temporary for this period of time.”

As pundits weigh the winners and losers of the far-reaching relief package, she said “it was curious” that the bill treated the District of Columbia “in a discriminatory way” by allocating funds to it in line with American territories rather than states.

“It really makes no sense unless you have some other motivation,” she said. “The District of Columbia has always been treated like a state in terms of distribution of funds.”

“It doesn't face the realities of a public health crisis that we have in our country and goes out of its way to do something so out of the ordinary,” she said. “But it was a decision. It wasn't an accident. It was a decision. So let's make a decision to correct that.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



OlegAlbinsky/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump finds himself in uncharted political waters as he stares down the biggest challenge of his presidency -- a global pandemic that is simultaneously exposing flaws in the federal government’s disaster preparedness and response capabilities, while simultaneously wreaking havoc on an economy key to his reelection chances.

Eager to move past the economic crisis brought on by the public health one, he has charted out an optimistic Easter Sunday timeline to “reopen” the country, or at least large sections of it, for 'normal' business -- despite health experts warning there is no evidence the virus's spread will have abated by then.

"I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” the president declared Tuesday. “I just thought it was a beautiful time. It would be a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline. It’s a great day."

But while the president has found ways to bend the mechanics of the federal government to his will in the past, the president is coming up against the reality that pandemics don’t operate on political timelines.

"You've got to understand that you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, said on CNN Wednesday night.

Fauci said the president’s health adviser had a conversation with the president Tuesday and explained the need to be “really very flexible.”

“You can look at a date, but you got to be very flexible. And on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis, you need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do,” Fauci said.

The president has since moderated his Easter goal somewhat, now saying there will be a “recommendation” by or before Easter.


Even as the president pledges to listen to his health experts, he is listening to his economic advisers in the other ear, while keeping eye on the instability in the stock market and the record-breaking 3.2 million weekly jobless claims reported Thursday.

The tug-of-war between the public health and economic concerns was on display in Wednesday’s press briefing, with the president following up on a promise not to “do anything rash or hastily” by expressing concern at the shuttered state of the economy.

“But the country wants to get back to work,” Trump said. “Our country was built to get back to work. We don't have the -- a country where they say, ‘Hey, let's close it down for two years.; We can’t do that. It's not our country.”

The president has struggled to apply his usual political playbook to a pandemic immune to his typical name-calling and attempts to distract.

Instead, he has tried to paint himself as the hero who wants Americans to return to work and the media as the evil force trying to prevent the economy from thriving.

"The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success," he tweeted on Wednesday. "The real people want to get back to work ASAP."

In reality, governors and local officials nationwide have called the shots, closing schools, non-essential businesses and more for weeks despite Trump signaling his opposition to a longer-term shutdown.

With campaign rallies cancelled and social distancing in force, the president has not left the White House in 16 days, other than a brief visit to the Washington headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week.

To fill the void and to stay in the spotlight, Trump has appeared before the press every day for the last two weeks, almost every time in the White House briefing room.

Surrounded by obsequious deputies and often uncomfortable-looking public health experts, the president has turned the lengthy news conferences into rallies of a sort. While the medical experts do participate, the president takes center stage to spar with reporters, lob insults and make evidence-challenged claims.

But with critics saying he is spreading misinformation and being overtly political, some television networks have stopped airing the entire briefings live, leading the White House to vent publicly.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



fitimi/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, about half of the U.S. population said COVID-19 was a "major threat" to the health of the country, but more Democrats felt this way than Republicans, according to polling from Pew Research Center.

While the partisan divide still exists, new polling from Pew Research out Thursday shows that across the board, on both ends of the political spectrum, more Americans now consider it a "major threat" to health as the pandemic continues to rapidly spread across the United States.

According to the first Pew poll, conducted between March 10 and March 16, 59% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic said the outbreak was a major threat to the population's health, but only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the same.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll conducted within the same time frame, from March 13 to March 14, showed a similar, stark partisan gap: While 56% of Americans thought coronavirus was a "real threat," 76% of Democrats said it was, but only 40% of Republicans said the same.

Gary Langer, longtime polling director for ABC News, said partisan identity is formed by "who people are."

"That's why it's pretty durable, and it's also pretty persuasive. It's persuasive because it works as a shortcut," he said.

On March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, but while he had started to ramp up his rhetoric round the seriousness of the virus, even as he announced this significant step to respond to the outbreak, his words and actions seemed at times at odds with the declaration.


Despite having come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, Trump shook hands with company CEOs in the Rose Garden; he doubted the country would "need anywhere near" 5 million COVID-19 tests; and he asserted "it's totally unnecessary" for asymptomatic people to be tested.

"This will pass," Trump assured America, and days later, the White House released recommended guidance, titled, "15 Days to Slow the Spread."

Now 10 days after, about 75,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus, putting the country only behind China and Italy, where two of the worst outbreaks have occurred. The president has recently said he wants the country "opened up" by Easter, just over two weeks away, but at least 27 states plus the District of Columbia have active, or soon to be active, statewide closures of non-essential businesses and nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment in one week, absolutely smashing the previous record of about 680,000.

Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at New York University, recently warned in a Washington Post op-ed that the differences between how seriously Democrats and Republicans are taking and responding to coronavirus shouldn't be overlooked.

"The partisanship around estimating if you thought Trump's crowd sizes were bigger than Obama's, like that seems like it's absurd, but it's completely trivial," Van Bavel told ABC News in an interview. "This is the furthest thing from trivial... You can't imagine a more serious situation where partisanship and polarization could be deathly for people."

In the Marist poll noted earlier, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to report cancelling plans to avoid crowds, changing travel plans, stocking up on food and supplies and choosing to eat at home more often.

"My concern is that people are going to take more risky behavior," Van Bavel said. "I mean, if you aren't ready for this thing, within a couple weeks, it takes hold and it grows exponentially. And so, it's really hard to turn it around at that point."

"The virus doesn't care about your party affiliation or you political beliefs," said Dr. Mark Lurie, an associate professor of epidemiology at Brown University's School of Public Health. "If you don't follow the CDC recommendations, you're increasing (the chance) that you're going to get infected and that you're going to infect other people."

Lurie said that "denialism" is something that's been seen at the beginning of other epidemics, but the more coronavirus "infiltrates our daily lives, the more people are going to take it more seriously."

While the partisan gap doesn't seem to be lessening quite yet, there are signs it's headed that way, as more Americans across the board are viewing it more seriously.

In the Pew Research study published Thursday, 66% of Americans now think coronavirus is a "major threat" to the health of the U.S. population, up from 47% in the poll published a week ago. Among Americans who identify with either party, though, the percentage of people who think this has gone up 19 points.

In the course of about two weeks, Gallup saw a similar trend over three polls. Between March 13 and 15, just 12% of Republicans said they were avoiding small gatherings with friends and family, compared to 32% of Democrats who said they were doing that. Between March 20 and March 22, Gallup saw jumps of about 45 percentage points for people who identified with both parties reporting they were avoiding small gatherings. In the same time-frame, there was a similar 40 point increase among Republicans and Democrats who said they were avoiding public places, like restaurants and stores, but the 20 point partisan gap still existed.

Notably, there's been much less of a partisan gap in some polling on coronavirus, in particular, polling about public health officials and state and local government.

In the Pew Research poll released March 18, 87% of Republicans and Republican-leaners and 81% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said they were either very or somewhat confident that CDC public health officials were doing a good job responding to the virus. In the Marist poll, 87% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans said they trusted information from public health officials either a great deal or good amount.

"To the extent that we ask a question that's more political in nature, partisan predispositions are more likely to inform it, and as we move away from political issues, you still can have partisan influences, but they tend to subside," Langer said.

In the Pew poll out Thursday, the lack of partisanship persists.

"Clear majorities of Democrats and Republicans say public health officials like those in the CDC are doing an excellent or good job," Kiley said, adding that for state and local officials, there's "very little partisan difference" in how they're evaluated, and generally, they get high marks.

This was also seen in the last Pew Research poll, when, compared to public health officials, there was even more bipartisanship agreement regarding state and local officials, with nearly the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans saying they were either very or somewhat confident in those officials. In a poll from Monmouth University released Monday, 76% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans said their state's governor has done a good job.

"People trust their local government more than their county government, their county government more than their state government, their state government more than the federal government. That's consistent across almost any measurement we can take -- the more local, the less removed, the more personal, the greater the trust," Langer explained.

However, while the partisan gap around how good the response has been at the state and local level is nearly nonexistent, there is difference in how Republican versus Democratic officials have responded.

Twenty-six states have Republican governors, but of the 27 states that have either implemented or ordered the closure of non-essential business statewide, only seven of them have a Republican as their chief executive.

The four states with the most number of cases in the United States all have Democratic governors, but in Florida, the state with the fifth most cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted ordering the same closures. Excluding Massachusetts, in the two states represented by Republicans with the next highest number of cases, Georgia and Texas, the governors haven't ordered these closures yet either.

In the latest Pew study, while Kiley said there was "a fair amount of partisan agreement" among Americans that steps taken like limiting international travel and cancelling major sporting and entertainment events, have been necessary, by a 20-point margin, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say that closing non-essential businesses was necessary action.

"One possibility is that Republicans will start to take it more seriously as it starts to reach into their neighborhoods... you might see that as it spreads into more and more red states and suburbs... you might see that partisan gap closes even more because then it becomes a really undeniable risk factor for people," NYU's Van Bavel told ABC News.

"I would expect in the future, that (the partisan gap) would eventually get washed away because enough people will have had enough personal experience in their families with the virus that denialism will be impossible to maintain," said Lurie, the epidemiology professor at Brown.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



chaiyapruek2520/iStock(WASHINGTON) --  Amid concerns of the potentially devastating effects that an outbreak of the novel coronavirus could have within the walls of the nation's prisons, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that he has issued new recommendations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to explore releasing certain at-risk prisoners to home confinement in order to reduce the overall prison population.

In a press conference at the Justice Department -- conducted via teleconference due to new social distancing protocols -- Barr said that of the 146,000 inmates currently serving time in federal prison facilities, one third are believed to have pre-existing medical conditions and roughly 10,000 are over the age of 60 years old.

"You want to make sure that our institutions don't become petri dishes and it spreads rapidly through a particular institution," Barr said on Thurday. "But we have the protocols that are designed to stop it and we are using all the tools we have to protect the inmates."

He added that "one of the those tools will be identifying vulnerable prisoners who would make more sense to allow to go home to finish their confinement."

Barr added that anyone who would be considered eligible for release to home confinement would have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

In a phone interview with ABC News following the press conference, Barr stressed that there would be significant limits on what would make prisoners eligible for release to home confinement, noting that they could not be convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses -- which makes up roughly 40% of the over-60 population.

"My main interest is making sure that they're safe to the community and that the situation they're going into is likely to be safer than staying where they are where they have ready access to doctors and we can keep them in isolation," Barr said.

The announcement comes after a number of staff and inmates in federal facilities in New York City, Atlanta and Louisiana have tested positive for the virus, leading to lockdowns of the prisons and some workers and prisoners put in isolation to try to attempt further spread.

"I don't want people to think we're doing it out of panic because we feel we've lost control," Barr said of the home confinement plan. " We haven't lost control but I'm still concerned that we keep each of these facilities from becoming vectors of infection."

Asked about the situations that have unfolded in prisons in Italy and Spain, where coronavirus outbreaks have resulted in some instances in prison riots and mass escapes by inmates, Barr told ABC News he doesn't believe at this point that conditions in America's federal prison system will similarly devolve.

"I'm not as worried in the federal system, at least from what I'm seeing now," Barr said. "I don't want to be presumptuous and predict the future but I think the main thing is communication with the inmates and I think they're communicating very well."

In response to some local and state prisons across the U.S. who have opted to release inmates in prisons and jails in large numbers, Barr said he was concerned about those using the coronavirus simply as a vehicle to de-populate prisons around the U.S.

"I don't think that people should make the blanket assumption that inmates are safer, per se, outside of facilities than in," Barr said. "A lot of it depends on where they're going. Frankly, someone in Otisville, New York in a low-security facility is probably better off than if he's released home into New York City."

He said he remains opposed to any kind of "wholesale" or mass release of inmates from the country's prisons.

"Do you want to send a signal right now that you can get away with things?" Barr said. "Is there going to be a general break down in law and order in some place and I think the whole optic of, 'Okay, well we're not going to take any more prisoners,' could contribute to that."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Franco Origlia/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich -- a known friend of President Donald Trump, who also served as House Speaker during his tenure -- joined the hosts of ABC's The View, saying he’s "moderately optimistic" about the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus, specifically in Congress.

Late Wednesday evening, the Senate passed a bipartisan stimulus package worth $2 trillion to offset the economic impacts of the COVID-19 spread.

"They did the right thing to pass it," he said. "The country needs to have a feel that... we as a country can move, that we can get things done."

Gingrich told the hosts he gives Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer credit for working together with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "over the last three or four days," adding that "we can’t afford some of the pettiness" if the government wants to successfully make it through.

"I’m moderately optimistic that we may be entering a period where protecting Americans and defeating the virus is more important than partisan games," he said.

.@newtgingrich, who is isolated in Italy amid coronavirus concerns, tells us he’s “moderately optimistic that we may be entering a period where protecting Americans and defeating the virus is more important than partisan games.” https://t.co/zJecmBUqUR pic.twitter.com/tGzZRkXntw

— The View (@TheView) March 26, 2020

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, have found themselves stuck in what has been considered an epicenter of the spread of the novel coronavirus through Europe: Italy. They have been based in Rome since 2017 and Callista currently serves as Trump's advisor to the Vatican.

"Everything's closed down except grocery stores and pharmacies and gas stations," Gingrich told the hosts of the Italian response. "The police are here on the street without a legitimate reason. They will fine you up to $8,000."

When asked about his own health, Gingrich said he and Callista have "his and hers thermometers" and check frequently to make sure their temperatures are safe.

"We seem to be doing pretty good right now, and we’re isolated," he said.

While Gingrich said the Italian government was "a little late, frankly" in starting to recognize the seriousness of the virus, he said that more recently, he's "been very impressed -- not just with the government, but also with the Italian people."

"They know it’s life and death, and I think probably in the next few days, we’re going to see the peak of the virus -- which has mostly been in northern Italy," he said.

Gingrich said that although he does not think it's necessary to "close" states with low numbers of COVID-19 cases, he recommended hotspots like New York should have "an Italian kind of total shutdown."

Reflecting on the White House’s approach to address the virus, Gingrich dismissed the administration’s lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in stockpile, saying they didn’t yet know how dangerous it would become.

"I think until you’ve experienced a pandemic like this, you always discount it," he told co-host Meghan McCain, who asked him what he thought went wrong on the U.S. front. "Without getting into politics, in the last administration when we had the H1N1 virus, we used an amazing number of masks and they were told ‘you need to go out and buy a bunch of masks.’ They didn’t do it."

Gingrich added, "so the stockpike wasn’t rebuilt."

His remarks echoed those of Trump, who has also passed blame to the previous administration. Gingrich estimated the U.S. stockpile is "about six weeks" behind where it should be.

He also told the hosts that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the ones who "blew it" in the early days of the outbreak, because "they didn't get the tests right early on" -- adding that cost the United States about "three weeks of production."

"We've got to do what we can to make sure that the American people don't get crushed economically while we're trying to crush the virus," @newtgingrich tells us. "I think it's a really important balancing act." https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA https://t.co/anHyU1wIKw

— The View (@TheView) March 26, 2020

"We've got to do what we can to make sure that the American people don't get crushed economically while we're trying to crush the virus," he said. "I think it's a really important balancing act."

This week, Trump’s tone about the economic crisis has become more alarming, saying during a Fox News virtual town hall on Tuesday that the U.S. is "not built to shut down" and suggested during a White House briefing on the same day that he wants the country to re-open "by Easter."

When asked by co-host Sunny Hostin whether he thinks this timeline is possible, Gingrich deflected the question. He instead turned to Italy’s response, saying even religious hubs like Rome aren’t holding services.

"We’re in the city of Rome which has 900 churches, and none of them have mass if you can imagine how big a change that is," he said.

Gingrich, now a political pundit, highlighted the high demand for PPE in Italy, which is also becoming a growing problem in the U.S.

"Because the demand for respirators and intensive care has been beyond any previous planning, doctors have been forced into the kind of triage-thinking developed for intense battlefield casualty situations," he said in an opinion piece published in Newsweek on March 13. "There are reports that emergency room doctors are allotting respirators to those with higher life expectancy due to the limited equipment in the hardest hit areas of the province."

The World Health Organization reported on Wednesday that Italy has surpassed 69,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 -- and 6,820 cases resulting in deaths.

While commending Trump for shutting down all U.S. travel to Europe, Gingrich also shared a grave warning, saying the U.S. needs to be "planning for a worst-case pandemic" and "using the kind of intensity of implementation which served us so well in World War II."

"The Pence-led Coronavirus Task Force has begun to pull things together, but it should have a planning group that creates a worst-case projection and then devises the steps necessary to smother the pandemic and minimize its impact," he said.

Gingrich suggested that the U.S. should be not only thinking about its own economic crisis, but also how it will be impacted by one in Europe.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- With the White House and Senate finally reaching an agreement early Wednesday morning on a $2 trillion package to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic, now comes the tough part: securing the votes.

After haggling all day, a final bill was introduced in the Senate and approved.

Senate Republicans downplayed concessions given to Democrats throughout the marathon negotiations, arguing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "delayed life-saving aid to medical professionals and significant relief for families and small businesses in order to claim credit for wins that are either bipartisan or Republican ideas."

"Reading Chuck Schumer's list, we half expected that the next thing I read would be the minority leader taking credit for inventing fire," a senior Senate GOP aide said. "The reality is that almost every significant "win" he's taking credit for, is actually a Senate Republican idea."

The aide claimed Senate Republicans "never objected" that oversight of the Economic Stabilization Fund be structured in the mold of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) oversight, or that the bill would include billions of dollars to shore up hospitals.

"What Schumer and Senate Democrats actually wanted was to create a completely new structure that would have given subpoena power to a new panel that would have had oversight of the entire Trump administration pandemic response," the aide argued. "From the beginning, when Leader McConnell laid out four pillars of phase three, unprecedented aid to the nation's hospitals was a primary element. There was always going to be tens and tens of billions for our hospitals in the CARES Act. Sen. Schumer's attempt to take credit for an increase in hospital aid is nonsensical because there was no opposition."

Wednesday afternoon, a quartet of Senate Republicans objected to a provision in the massive unemployment insurance expansion in the package that they say could mean that some Americans could be paid more to be out of work than they were earning before they were laid off or furloughed because of the pandemic.

In the unprecedented expansion of jobless benefits in the relief bill, each worker would receive a $600 weekly check for four months -- on top of the customary benefits doled out by states.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who pushed for the expansion of these benefits, said he and three other GOP senators -- Rick Scott of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Nebraska's Ben Sasse -- are demanding an amendment to the bill that would cap benefits for the jobless at 100% of a worker's pay before he or she was out of a job.

"This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working," Graham said, contending the bill would pay the unemployed roughly $24 per hour, on average.

The provision, which aides said was not a drafting error, was negotiated by the Trump Administration, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and senior Democrats, including Schumer and Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Unemployment insurance, which is administered at the state level through individual programs, was not conducive to imposing a brand new federal bureaucracy to dole out emergency benefits, Republican and Democratic aides who were close to the talks explained. Senate negotiators chose to come up with a national average wage in order to arrive at the $600 weekly figure, and the bill would have the states take on that financial burden on the front end only to be repaid by the federal government.

Ultimately, the problem was just a hiccup, with the four introducing an amendment that would cap unemployment benefits, but it failed in a vote late Wednesday.

The measure now moves to the House for a potential vote later this week.

All politics are local, and beyond exerting public pressure to lobby the Senate to improve the bill, this is a package that members of the House had little direct sway in crafting. That has generated apprehension that a single member -- Republican or Democrat -- could scuttle efforts to pass the Senate agreement without calling all of the House's membership back to Washington to cast a roll call vote.

House Republican leaders held two conference calls with their members on Wednesday to build cohesive support for the Senate agreement. Minority Whip Steve Scalise is also touting the Senate deal as "the largest economic relief package in American history."

Scalise's whip team convened a conference call Tuesday where a source expressed optimism that all lawmakers won't need to return for a vote -- and that they won't have to change the rules to achieve that.

Whenever a vote is called in the House, the member presiding over the House asks all in favor to say "Aye!" -- and all opposed -- "No!" This generally provoke each side to yell out their votes and the chair rules on whichever side he or she believes prevailed. Only then does a member -- usually from the losing end -- stand to request a recorded vote.

The way GOP leaders see it, their members could still shout "NO!!!!!" and be satisfied that they expressed their opposition without forcing a roll call vote. But it remains an open question whether all members would be content without a recorded vote.

"It only takes one member to object to trying to pass this via [unanimous consent], which is a very real possibility that we recognize," a whip team source acknowledged. "However, passing this by voice vote remains a possibility. We have discussed this with various factions of our conference, and believe this is a possible outcome. Strong Republican support for the bill is evident at this point."

During an appearance on PBS, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she does not believe the House will be able to pass the stimulus bill by unanimous consent.

"No I don't think we can get unanimous consent," Pelosi said. "I think there are a number of people who are working their way here on the Republican side for sure -- maybe the Democrat side -- to object to unanimous consent."

She also acknowledged the House could approve the measure by a voice vote.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is already warning that the agreement is "terrible" for New York -- even though Schumer, the senior senator from the Big Apple, had an outsized role negotiating the deal.

House Democratic leaders are also conferring with each other as they await a Senate vote, and working to hold off the left flank of the party from upsetting the bipartisan vibe.

While Pelosi refused to fully endorse the agreement as she awaited the legislative text, her statement Wednesday morning outlined several victories Democrats are emphasizing in order to unite the caucus -- while admitting the agreement does not match the Democratic priorities spelled out in their own proposal.

"This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people," Pelosi, D-Calif., stated. "While the compromise does not go as far as our Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, thanks to the unity and insistence of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to America's workers."

After a brief pro forma session Wednesday morning, the House adjourned until 11 a.m. Thursday. In a Dear Colleague letter, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reaffirmed his pledge to give lawmakers 24-hours notice before a vote to afford members the opportunity to return to the Capitol.

"Before we can determine when and how the House will consider this legislation, we must have the final legislative text and clear direction on when the Senate will vote," Hoyer, D-Md., wrote. "I remain committed to giving House Members 24 hours' notice before the House acts."

More than a dozen representatives remain in self-quarantine as two other members of the House recover from the coronavirus.

As with the two previous phases of Congress' response, leaders are attempting to assuage any consternation among their members by promising future waves of relief in the coming weeks and months.

Rep. David Cicilline, the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, announced he's supporting the Senate's deal, but he's already looking for more action from Congress.

"I've already directed my staff to begin identifying additional priorities for Rhode Island. In the weeks ahead, I will continue working with Gov. Raimondo and my colleagues in the Congressional Delegation to ensure we leave no stone unturned until this crisis has ended," Cicilline, D-R. I., noted in a statement Wednesday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



JIM LO SCALZO/WHITE HOUSE POOL (ISP POOL IMAGES)/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ron Klain, who served as the U.S. Ebola response coordinator under former President Barack Obama, told the hosts of ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast on Wednesday that the U.S. government's slow response to the novel coronavirus is putting the nation on a "path to becoming the worst outbreak" in the world.

"It's going to get very bad," Klain -- affectionately known as the "Ebola czar," who served from late 2014 to early 2015 -- told ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein, noting specifically how the number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus continues to climb on a daily basis.

"We are adding 10,000 cases a day in the U.S., and that probably understates the number of cases," he said, later adding, "We’re still not testing in large parts of the country. We’re blind to how much this is."

In addition to serving as the Ebola czar, Klain was also the former chief of staff to former Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. He currently serves as a senior adviser to Biden's presidential campaign.

"This is about saving lives, not about an election. It’s about getting the right things done," Klain told the hosts. "And so I think [Biden's] made that very, very clear. He does get daily briefings about how various aspects of this are going."

Biden released a campaign video of Klain on Monday, in which he gave a "breakdown" explaining the challenges of COVID-19.

"Some countries acted quickly," Klain said in the video. "What did President Trump do? He downplayed it. Trump’s slow response to this crisis is no surprise."

Everyone knows that we're facing a real crisis from the coronavirus. But do you know how we got here and what we need to do next? Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator, breaks it down for us: pic.twitter.com/XRkIw2EzM4

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 21, 2020

Asked about his assessment of what the government and health officials need to do to speed up the response, Klain outlined three things that he said are "really urgent" and that "remain unfixed."

He said one of the country's downfalls is the lack of testing being administered. According to previous ABC News reporting, Vice President Mike Pence announced in a March 3 press briefing that Americans could be tested with "no restrictions, subject to doctors' orders."

Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said the day before that a million tests would be available by the end of the week.

Klain pointed out that White House officials have yet to deliver on this number -- even as President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the "United States has done far more "testing" than any other nation, by far!"

"We trail the entire developed world for testing our population," Klain told the hosts. "And that's one reason why we are leading the entire developed world in the acceleration of cases."

He said the other two priorities should be creating "tens of thousands" of additional hospital beds and the invocation of the Defense Production Act by the Trump administration in order to supply health care professionals with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Without the proper PPE, Klain said the number of doctors and nurses working to treat COVID-19 patients will decline -- as they are sent home.

"Doctors and nurses are reusing gear or using inadequate gear," he said. "And what's going to happen is they're going to get sick."

When pressed by Karl on Trump's suggestion of the U.S. being "open for business" by Easter, Klain said he does not envision it being a possibility.

"We need to have some smart, sophisticated planning about what restoration of economic activity looks like," Klain said.

"It's not going to happen tomorrow. It's not going to happen on Easter. But I think now is the time to start to do this planning," he added.

Klain said he didn't want to speculate about the likelihood of the Democratic National Convention being held in July -- but did say he thinks voting by mail should be a national regulation "not only for this pandemic, but in the future."  

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he needed 30,000 ventilators for the state of New York in order to be prepared for the "apex" of its caseload -- which his team predicted was two to three weeks away -- he criticized the federal government for offering up a fraction of that need.

"FEMA says, 'we're sending 400 ventilators.' Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators, when I need 30,000?" Cuomo said at a news conference.

Later, Trump announced he would supply another 4,000 ventilators to New York from the national stockpile, but he added a claim that Cuomo had turned down the chance to stock up on thousands of ventilators in 2015.

"He had a chance to buy -- in 2015 -- 16,000 ventilators at a very low price and he turned it down. I'm not blaming him or anything else. But he shouldn't be talking about us. He's supposed to be buying his own ventilators. We are going to help," Trump said in a Fox News town hall held at the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday.

"They could have had 15 or 16,000 two years ago and all they had to do was order them. They can't blame us for that," he said again in the interview.

Trump appeared to be dramatizing a report from a New York Department of Health task force in 2015 which predicted that, if faced with a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, New York would run into a ventilator shortage to the tune of 15,000. The report was recently resurfaced by Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York and supporter of Trump since 2016, who wrote an op-ed about it in the New York Post. Her op-ed was later picked up by the far-right blog Gateway Pundit.

The report, however, did not recommend that New York Health Department should have stocked up on ventilators, nor did it find a low-cost option to do so, as Trump indicated Tuesday. Instead, the 2015 report acknowledged that New York should instead prepare for a moderate scenario and rely on federal resources if faced with a severe scenario.

"In the event of an overwhelming burden on the health care system, New York will not have sufficient ventilators to meet critical care needs despite its emergency stockpile. If the most severe forecast becomes a reality, New York State and the rest of the country will need to allocate ventilators and other scarce resources," the report reads.

The recommendation was made, according to the report, to balance "the need to prepare for a potential pandemic against the need to maintain adequate funding for current and ongoing health care expenses." The report also indicated that they would lack the staffing to even operate as many ventilators as would be required, "and purchasing additional ventilators beyond a threshold will not save additional lives, because there will not be a sufficient number of trained staff to operate them."

Asked about Trump's claims by a journalist at his Wednesday morning briefing, Cuomo said, "that's not the fact and you know it. Read the fact checkers on it."

The governor said there was a commission, referring to the New York Department of Health's Task Force on Life and Law, that found "if you had the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, you may need X number of ventilators." But New York didn't prepare for a pandemic as serious as the 1918 Spanish flu, nor did the federal government or anyone "in the world," Cuomo added.

"There is no state in the United States that bought ventilators for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The federal government did not buy ventilators for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Nobody in the world bought ventilators in preparation for a 1918 Spanish flu pandemic," Cuomo said.

Notably, the severe scenario modeled in the report found that 128,552 patients would be hospitalized during "peak week" of the hypothetical pandemic, which New York would need 18,619 ventilators to treat. Even then, the report found, the New York would be 15,000 ventilators short.

On Tuesday, Cuomo painted a picture that was more dire: New York would need 140,000 hospital beds for the apex of the new coronavirus and 30,000 ventilators.

According to the 2015 report, hospitals would rely on "triage committees," or teams of doctors, to choose which patients would receive ventilator treatment during a shortage, weighing which patients were most at risk and which were most likely to survive treatment. If it came between two patients who had the same diagnosis, the triage committee would randomly pick -- like a lottery.

Asked Wednesday what the protocol would be if New York faced a ventilator shortage due to coronavirus, Cuomo said they were expecting to have enough ventilators to treat everyone.

Cuomo also signaled that some of the tension with the White House over the shortage had been relieved by a phone call with the president that morning, which Trump also said was productive during a briefing Wednesday night.

The governor commended the president for utilizing the Defense Production Act as a leveraging tool to get more medical equipment and said getting 30,000 ventilators "is an extraordinarily difficult task" but "it's something that our team is working on with the White House team, and I want to thank the president for his cooperation and his team for their cooperation."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Listener Poll
No question right now. Stay tuned to Stillwater Radio for Corona Virus News.
Add a Comment
(Fields are Optional)

Your email address is never published.

Find Us On Facebook