HOW TO THINK ABOUT CORONA-STIMULUS 3.0 … For reference: Going forward, let’s call the emergency $8.3 billion bill that was signed into law on March 6 Phase One of the efforts to address the impact the pandemic is having on the U.S. economy. … Last week’s House bill, which passed Friday night and contains paid sick leave and free testing, we’ll call Phase Two. … And the bill that’s just beginning to be discussed in the Senate is Phase Three.
THIS IS A FAST-MOVING STORY … AS OF RIGHT NOW, the House’s Phase Two bill has not been sent to the Senate, because the leadership is working on a package of corrections. That package is not complete yet. It’s not entirely clear to anyone exactly when the House will fix its bill — we’re told it could happen today, but it’s taking some time. The chamber intends to fix it using unanimous consent. These fixes are a bigger issue than the House leadership let on.
BUT … REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-Texas) has signaled he will insist on approving the corrections to the bill, or else he will object to the unanimous consent request in the House. That would grind this process to a halt. Gohmert is in Washington. It’s unclear how the leadership will handle Gohmert — always a wild card — here. President DONALD TRUMP has not gotten involved so far. (John Bresnahan rightly points out that this isn’t an issue yet, but it may be one the package is finished.)
THIS IS NEW … WE ARE NOW HEARING FROM OUR SOURCES that the Senate may want to amend the House’s Phase Two bill, and not pass it immediately. The latest from Marianne LeVine and John Bresnahan
SOME NEW REPORTING …
— PHASE TWO was a deal cut between Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN. Even as the Senate reacts to that bill and the House makes tweaks, senior Senate GOP sources say that Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL and his chamber are going to want a much bigger say in Phase Three, the next stimulus bill.
— TO WIT: Sen. JOHN THUNE, the South Dakota Republican who is the No. 2 in leadership, has been soliciting input from lawmakers on ideas for the next stimulus package.
— TO GIVE A SENSE OF HOW BIG the package is going to be, the AIRLINE INDUSTRY is discussing a proposal with lawmakers that would be between $45 BILLION and $55 BILLION in loans, tax incentives and grants, according to multiple sources on Capitol Hill and K Street.
— ROMNEY GOES FULL YANG: NEW STATEMENT FROM SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah): “Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy. Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”
BTW: As Congress wrangles over the relatively small Phase Two bill, consider how difficult it would be to pass $1,000 per person. It’s akin to asking someone who can barely run a mile to run a marathon.
— MCCONNELL’S GOAL is to have the Phase Three package wrapped up before the EASTER RECESS, which begins April 3 — Congress is scheduled to be out from then until April 20. But, in reality, they want this done ASAP.
THE LARGER QUESTION: With the coronavirus continuing to spread on Capitol Hill — one of Rep. David Schweikert’s (R-Ariz.) D.C. aides now has it — we wonder just when PELOSI and MCCONNELL will be tempted to keep Congress out of session.
THE RADIO TV CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION on Capitol Hill has just announced that it has discussed social distancing at stakeouts between reporters and lawmakers. The announcement
THE SUPREME COURT canceled all oral arguments for the entire month. “The Court will hold its regularly scheduled Conference on Friday, March 20. Some Justices may participate remotely by telephone.” News release from the Supreme Court … More from Josh Gerstein
THE IOWA STATE HOUSE has said it will be out of session for the next 30 days — at least, via Des Moines Register’s Rachel Stassen-Berger. … NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY and CONNECTICUT have closed bars, gyms, casinos and restaurants (except for carryout and delivery). MARYLAND is following suit.
FT’S @Laura_K_Hughes: “For the first time, the government says pregnant women are among those who should be avoiding social contact. They are now in the same category as the over 70s and those with underlying health conditions.”
Good Monday afternoon. Today’s coronavirus task force briefing has been pushed to 3:30 p.m.
VEEPSTAKES THOUGHT BUBBLE … On Sunday night, JOE BIDEN made the announcement that he would pick a woman as his running mate should he secure the Democratic nomination. The decision wasn’t that surprising (though announcing it mid-debate was), but if you drill down a bit on who will actually be advising him it does get interesting — it will largely be women. Biden is surrounded by female advisers at the most senior level: his wife JILL BIDEN, sister and longtime adviser VALERIE BIDEN OWENS, senior adviser ANITA DUNN and incoming campaign manager JEN O’MALLEY DILLON.
BLOOMBERG SCOOP: “U.S. Health Agency Suffers Cyber-Attack During Covid-19 Outbreak,” by Shira Stein and Jennifer Jacobs: “The U.S. Health and Human Services Department suffered a cyber-attack on its computer system Sunday night during the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people familiar with the matter. The attack appears to have been intended to slow the agency’s systems down, but didn’t do so in any meaningful way …
“The government realized Sunday that there had been a cyber intrusion and false information was circulating. The hacking involved multiple incidents. … It doesn’t appear that the hackers took any data from the systems … HHS officials assume that it was a hostile foreign actor, but there is no definitive proof at this time.” Bloomberg
— AP’S ZEKE MILLER and COLLEEN LONG: “U.S. officials: foreign disinformation stoking virus fears”: “On Sunday, federal officials began confronting what they said was a deliberate effort by a foreign entity to sow fears of a nationwide quarantine amid the virus outbreak. Agencies took coordinated action Sunday evening to deny that any such plans were put in place, as they tried to calm a nation already on edge by disruptions to daily life caused by the virus.” AP
THE WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL has been canceled.
POSITIVE SPIN ON THINGS! — @realDonaldTrump at 11 a.m.: “Everybody is so well unified and working so hard. It is a beautiful thing to see. They love our great Country. We will end up being stronger than ever before!”
WSJ’S RICHARD RUBIN: “Tax Law Changes Make Life Harder for Firms Facing Coronavirus Losses”: “The 2017 tax law is making life harder for U.S. businesses that suffer sudden losses, and Congress is under pressure to relax some of those provisions as the economy reels from the impact of the coronavirus. To help pay for cutting the corporate tax rate, the law curtailed deductions for net operating losses and interest.
“The changes to loss deductions, in particular, make it harder for companies to use today’s losses against past profits and claim quick refunds for cash infusions. … Changes to loss deductions and other business tax provisions could come soon as Congress tries to respond to the sudden economic shock of the virus. The National Association of Manufacturers has already asked Congress to consider loosening rules on loss deductions.” WSJ
K STREET FILES … THEO MEYER: “K Street looks to ride coronavirus relief efforts”: “Lobbyists for drone makers and hog farmers — not to mention the oil and gas industry, among others — are looking to hitch a ride on the federal government’s coronavirus response. The deluge of ‘asks,’ as K Street refers to such pleas, include policies that might help address the crisis and revive the economy. But other proposals are similar to ones the same industries have pushed for years and have only a tenuous connection to the pandemic.
“Even some in the influence industry are calling foul. … Two dozen trade groups that have been pressing President Donald Trump to scrap his tariffs on imports from China since they were implemented in 2018 have re-pitched the idea as a way ‘to offset the grave economic damage’ caused by coronavirus.” POLITICO
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “‘It shouldn’t take a pandemic’: Coronavirus exposes Internet inequality among U.S. students as schools close their doors,” by WaPo’s Tony Romm: “In states like Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington, educators say they are feeling firsthand the sting of the digital divide — the historically hard-to-erase gap between those who have speedy, modern-day Web connections and those who do not. Even in the time of TikTok, an era when every song, movie and book seem a mere click away, millions of Americans lack basic broadband or simply cannot afford it.
“The burden often falls heavily on younger students, who may struggle to complete their classwork even during a normal school week because of technological and economic barriers. But the disruptions wrought by coronavirus threaten to exacerbate those digital woes, raising the question of whether the U.S. government and the telecom industry should have done more to cure the country’s digital divide — well before a pandemic gripped the nation.” WaPo
MEDIAWATCH — “The Newsroom at the Center of a Pandemic: ‘That’s what local papers are meant to do’: The journalists at The Seattle Times have been aggressively covering the coronavirus as it affects their neighbors and friends,” by NYT’s Rachel Abrams in Seattle
THE OVERTON WINDOW — “Biden Plans Show How Party’s Center Has Shifted Left,” by WSJ’s Jacob Schlesinger: “On taxes, health care, climate change and labor rights, Mr. Biden proposes a significantly bigger government role than Hillary Clinton did during her 2016 presidential bid and what the Obama-Biden ticket advocated during their two White House campaigns. … Mr. Biden proposes tax and spending increases equivalent to 1.5% of U.S. gross domestic product, more than double the level Mrs. Clinton advocated four years ago.” WSJ
BIG BERNIE READ — “Did America Misjudge Bernie Sanders? Or Did He Misjudge America?” by NYT Magazine’s Robert Draper: “I suggested to Sanders that while his candidacy was demanding soul-searching on the part of the Democratic Party, it was his failure to persuade its most reliable constituents — African-American voters — that had led him to this precarious moment. But the candidate remained fixated on his adversaries. … The campaign was nonetheless scrambling to at least slow if not reverse Biden’s momentum. …
“Sanders has prompted a reckoning within the Democratic Party. He has forced upon it an airing of ideological differences, compelling progressives and moderates to choose their leader and then make the case in public. … Even as the two-man race has taken a more pugilistic turn while the economy reels and a pandemic sweeps the globe, Sanders has remained steadfast in his willingness to let the Democratic voters judge him by his democratic-socialist vision of what America should be. And so, it would seem, they have.” NYT Magazine
— CNBC’S BRIAN SCHWARTZ: “Megadonors pull plug on plan for anti-Sanders super PAC as Biden racks up wins”: “As recently as last week, a handful of big money donors, some of whom work on Wall Street, were contemplating creating a political action committee whose sole purpose would be try to knock Sanders out of the race … The proposed goal was to raise at least $20 million to pay for ads and operational costs …
“The financiers’ discussion last week ended in the decision to not move ahead because they believe Biden is on the path to capturing the nomination.” CNBC
FALLING IN LINE — “Club for Growth spurns Sessions, endorses Tuberville in Alabama,” by James Arkin
MITCH GONNA MITCH — “McConnell Has a Request for Veteran Federal Judges: Please Quit,” by NYT’s Carl Hulse: “Running out of federal court vacancies to fill, Senate Republicans have been quietly making overtures to sitting Republican-nominated judges who are eligible to retire to urge them to step aside so they can be replaced while the party still holds the Senate and the White House.
“Senator Mitch McConnell … has been personally reaching out to judges to sound them out on their plans and assure them that they would have a worthy successor if they gave up their seats soon.” NYT
VALLEY TALK — “Invisible Censorship: TikTok Told Moderators to Suppress Posts by ‘Ugly’ People and the Poor to Attract New Users,” by The Intercept’s Sam Biddle, Paulo Victor Ribeiro and Tatiana Dias
TRANSITIONS — Amy Hasenberg is now comms director for Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). She was most recently was deputy comms director for the House Judiciary GOP. … Elana Ross is now press secretary for the president of Planned Parenthood. She previously was press secretary for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
ENGAGED — Oliver Darcy, senior media reporter at CNN, proposed to Elise Shae, who works at Google, on Friday night. He’d originally planned to propose in Paris, but due to the coronavirus, he instead popped the question on the New York City street corner where they met for their first date nearly two years ago. Pics
BONUS BIRTHDAY: Petra Starke (h/t Tim Burger)
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