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Coronavirus is Being Used as a Political Weapon

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Trump Called Pelosi ‘Incompetent’ on Coronavirus. Now He Needs Her.

Sam Brodey, Asawin Suebsaeng
The Daily BeastMarch 9, 2020
Tasos Katopodis/Getty
Tasos Katopodis/Getty

With stock markets reeling, businesses scrambling, and the American public fearful as the coronavirus spreads, Washington, D.C., has rapidly come around to the idea that sweeping action—in the form of a government stimulus plan—is needed to mitigate the virus’ effects on the economy. 

The question now is what that plan will look like and whether President Donald Trump, having spent weeks chastising congressional Democrats for supposedly trying to gin up the threat of the virus in order to hurt his presidency, has the political wherewithal to get it passed. 


On Monday, as the stock market suffered its worst day since the 2008 financial crisis, Trump appeared before the press and floated a “major” plan, which he said could include a payroll tax cut for companies, hourly wage earners “getting help” in the event they miss work, small business loans, and relief to industries like travel and hospitality that have been especially hard-hit by the outbreak.

Early indications are that there may be a receptive audience for the proposal on the Hill. 

Though Trump responded to Democrats’ criticism of his handling of the virus by slamming “incompetent” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “Cryin’” Chuck Schumer—accusing both of them and the media of trying to gin up a crisis to hurt his political prospects—House Democratic sources told The Daily Beast on Monday that there was appetite within their ranks to work with the administration on a plan to ease the economic burden of the outbreak. Especially enticing is Trump’s apparent openness to work with them on paid sick leave for workers, which supporters believe will not just protect workers’ economic livelihoods but also counter the spread of the virus itself by keeping employees away from more crowded worksites if they feel ill.


But Democrats also say that the devil will be in the details of the proposals Trump endorses. And they recognized that they’ve been in this place before. In past crises, most notably the aftermath of mass shootings, Trump has moved toward positions unusual for a GOP president to embrace, only to retreat later. There is also fear that Trump will end up tilting any coronavirus relief package towards Wall Street. Democratic lawmakers pointed to an upcoming Tuesday meeting at the White House between Trump’s team and banking executives as a sign that the markets-obsessed president is at least mulling a 2008-style bailout that many Democrats still revile as a lifeline to corporations that left workers behind.

“What we know is that the Wall Street bailout from 2008 basically just ended up preserving the billionaire class,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who voted for the bailout. “I think it’d be a huge mistake if our focus is bailing out industries and banks. Our focus should be on helping the workers who are going to be harmed by this—we can’t rely on trickle down disaster relief.”

While they may still be apart on the specifics, the White House and Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are in agreement that any stimulus plan will have to come together very quickly—likely within the next two weeks. Democratic committee chairs emerged from a meeting with Pelosi on Monday night vowing to move this week on bills designed to bolster the economy, reported CNN, though it’s unclear what form those bills will take yet. 

Congress has already shown an ability to move relatively fast to address the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, both chambers overwhelmingly approved legislation to inject over $8 billion into the country’s public health infrastructure, a sum that was far above what the administration initially requested. 

But a more sweeping plan to deal with wide-ranging economic, health, and labor fallout from the virus figures to be far more complicated than emergency legislation. And the relationship these days between the president and Hill Democratic leaders is at an all-time low, with each side accusing the other of politicizing a deadly disease outbreak.

With talk about a possible stimulus gaining steam in the White House over the weekend, on Sunday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a joint statement setting a benchmark for what Democrats will support in any future action to take on the coronavirus.

At the top of the list was paid sick leave. The leaders also pushed for improved unemployment insurance and expanding access to food stamps. 

For some Democrats, the fear is that the White House’s final proposal—which Trump said he would release in full on Tuesday—may end up trying to solve economic concerns without addressing the underlying public health crisis. 

“If it’s just tax relief for industries, which really translates to tax relief for stockholders, I'm going to be troubled by that,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). “The combination of direct relief to people who are at most risk not only deals with the economic question, but also makes it easier to engage in practices to limit the spread.”

Some early optimism did prevail in the Democratic ranks, however, even among Trump’s most outspoken critics. On Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) told The Daily Beast she felt there were decent prospects for progress on paid sick leave, specifically, though she worried what might come with it.

“It'd be great if we could broker a deal,” said Ocasio Cortez. “This president does not waste a crisis, though, so I would not be surprised if that also came with a bunch of toxic stuff as well. Knowing what usually comes out of this White House is that it's a crumb of something good like paid sick leave, and then it'll just be attached to a truckload of systemic risk. … and things that you would either deregulate or cut taxes even further on those who need those cuts the least.”

As House Democrats grappled with the idea of working with Trump on a possibly fraught stimulus plan, congressional Republicans—historically wary of anything tagged with that word—grappled with reconciling the president’s desires and their own instincts. 

“I don’t think there's a whole lot left that you can do,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN). “Stimulus, when you're running trillion dollar deficits, is an issue, and monetary policy is about as good as it can be. I think we get through it—the real economy is holding up fine.”

GOP leadership is set to meet with Trump this week to discuss possible paths forward. 

In recent days, as the Trump White House scrambled to assemble a legislative package in the hopes of averting economic disaster, senior administration officials consulted with top outside allies and conservative economics wonks on their planned proposals, including what should be done or spent if the coronavirus manages to truly tank the U.S. economy, according to two sources familiar with that outreach. And not all of these Trump allies agree with the White House officials pushing modest stimulus.

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist at the Heritage Foundation and an adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, said in a brief interview that he had recently spoken to Trump administration officials about economic measures that could be taken during this crisis, and that he’d offered his advice on the matter. 

"There’s not a lot the White House can do right now other than continue to instill confidence," Moore said late last week. "This really is a confidence game. And it’s a tricky thing because you don’t want to say, 'Oh, everything is fine,' but you need to let people know you’re in charge."

Moore added that he'd told Trump administration officials that he vehemently disagrees with some of the discussed proposals to counteract coronavirus panic and juice the economy. Among those ideas that Moore opposes is the one that seems to have the most support

"A payroll tax cut,” Moore said, “would not have an observable effect on the economy."


GO RV, then BV

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Just now, Pitcher said:

Nancy Pelosi needs to do her damn job and fund what needs to be funded to help people during the CV.  If she makes this more political the Dems will REALLY pay the price.  No time for politics when peoples lives are at stake.  


I agree with your statement.....However, Trump should also understand he's the pRESIDENT of ALL of us and should show some manners.  If he did that, his plight would be much less daunting.  Speaking of '"do the damn job"....mean tweets are not conducive to that.  There are no special rules for Donald...if he wants to act like a petulant child on twitter or in front of the camera, he should be treated like one.  As always, just my opinion.


GO RV, then BV

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President Trump just gave his 2nd Presser in less that 16 hours. I think he is on it and his proposals will help small businesses, and hourly wage earners as well as Sectors of the economy that are getting pounded.  He can’t do it by himself. Congress needs to do its job and stop using this CV for political gain.

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3 minutes ago, Pitcher said:

President Trump just gave his 2nd Presser in less that 16 hours. I think he is on it and his proposals will help small businesses, and hourly wage earners as well as Sectors of the economy that are getting pounded.  He can’t do it by himself. Congress needs to do its job and stop using this CV for political gain.


Same goes for him.....2 pressers do not make the man, it's a solid first step though.....can he sustain it and control his impulses, that's the question?


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Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump to go to Hill

Associated PressMarch 10, 2020
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats on Tuesday that Congress should stay at work this week as “captains of the ship” despite the risk of coronavirus infection on Capitol Hill as lawmakers scramble under enormous pressure to respond to the epidemic. President Donald Trump was heading there to confer with Senate Republicans about his proposed payroll tax relief.

Lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House's attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead. Trump met health insurers, seeking their cooperation in ensuring affordable medical care in the public-health emergency.

With Congress planning to take its scheduled break next week, the time for action is short. Democrats are assembling an aid package for working families struggling to keep paychecks coming as the outbreak disrupts workplaces. Their plan counters one from Trump, who is proposing a payroll tax break, small-business loans and other steps.

Crowds are the norm in the Capitol and handshakes are coin of the realm there, even between political foes. But about a half dozen lawmakers have placed themselves in quarantine after being exposed to someone who had the virus, and the norm has been upended.

Still, Pelosi implored lawmakers to keep working to strengthen the country's defenses.

“We are the captains of the ship,” Pelosi said during the closed-door meeting, according to a person in the room unauthorized to discuss the private caucus publicly and granted anonymity. “We are the last to leave.”

Trump's top economic advisers will be on Capitol Hill later Tuesday to brief Senate Republicans on his plan to ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief and other quick measures. On Monday, the president told reporters he is seeking “very substantial relief" to the payroll tax. Trump also said he was seeking help for hourly-wage workers to ensure they’re “not going to miss a paycheck” and “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault."

But so far, the president's approach, based on tax breaks, is receiving a cool response from Democrats as well as Republicans from his own party who say it's too soon to consider fresh spending from Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the chamber saying only that Republicans “look forward to discussing” the ideas “so we can all consider the best ways to move forward.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and adviser Larry Kudlow are expected at the weekly GOP lunch.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said the virus outbreak demands a “health care” solution. Democrats are proposing affordable testing, more unemployment benefits and paid leave for working families affected by the virus.

“The administration seems to believe that the answer to any problem is another tax cut,” Schumer said. "The best way to ensure economic security for the American people is to deal directly with the coronavirus itself.

It was not immediately clear how Trump was aiming to provide assistance to employees weighing whether to stay home because of illness — a crucial aim of public health officials seeking to curtail the spread of the virus.

One mechanism, backed by the Trump-allied National Association of Manufacturers, involves a proposed tax credit for employers who pay employees who are quarantined.

Trump stepped forward with the contours of an initiative Monday after markets dropped sharply and as the outbreak spread. markets recovered from some of the losses Tuesday, reacting positively to the prospects for an economic boost from Washington.

Several Trump confidants have disclosed they are isolating themselves after potential exposure to the virus; one lawmaker traveled with the president from Florida on Air Force One on Monday; another was his just-tapped new chief of staff.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which monitors financial markets, encouraged employees at its Washington headquarters to work from home after an employee there had respiratory symptoms and was referred for coronavirus testing.

And Defense Secretary Mark Esper postponed a trip to India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan that was to begin Monday, citing the coronavirus crisis, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said Tuesday. She said he would remain in the U.S to help manage the Pentagon response.

At the Capitol, Democratic lawmakers were told by the House chief administrative officer behind closed doors that the office could support up to 10,000 staff members teleworking if need be. Laptop orders were being expedited and cyber-security measures reviewed.

Trump returned to Washington on Monday accompanied by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who later went into a voluntary quarantine. He was one of several GOP lawmakers who were exposed to a person at last month's Conservative Political Action Conference who tested positive for the virus. His office said he was “mid-flight” on Air Force One when CPAC informed his staff that he had been in contact with the attendee who had the virus.

Once the plane landed, Gaetz was immediately tested.

Vice President Mike Pence, who also spoke at CPAC, said he has not been tested for the virus. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump has not been tested because he has not had “prolonged close contacts” with any patients and “does not have any symptoms.”

The White House has been convening meetings with an array of travel and healthcare industry representatives, and was set to host Wall Street executives at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the economic fallout of the epidemic.

Vast numbers of visitors come to the Hill, especially at this time of year when advocacy groups arrange “fly-in” trips to lobby and speak to lawmakers, and school groups descend for tours.

In one manifestation of lawmaking in the age of the coronavirus, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., approached a Republican colleague on the House floor Monday for a routine congratulatory handshake after the chamber approved a bill expanding a visa program. "Shake or bump?" Neal asked Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D.

The two men bumped elbows.


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Trump reportedly won't meet with Pelosi on a coronavirus bill, or for any reason, because he's mad at her

Peter Weber
The WeekMarch 11, 2020

President Trump traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to discuss a coronavirus economic stimulus package with Senate Republicans. Any bill would have to be approved by the Democratic-led House, where Trump's big idea, a payroll tax cut, is a nonstarter. So why didn't he also meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)? "Trump and Nancy Pelosi aren't exactly on speaking terms," Politico reports, "so he's deputized Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to handle talks with the speaker."

Senate Republicans are also leery of the payroll tax cut, especially as Trump gave the impression he wants the taxes used to fund Social Security and Medicare slashed to zero, permanently, The Washington Post reports. Pelosi's caucus is already putting together its own bill funding paid sick leave for workers and lunches for students whose schools are closed during the outbreak. Mnuchin "is going to have ball control for the administration, and I expect that will speak for us as well," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said after meeting with Trump. "We're hoping that he and the speaker can pull this together."

On MSNBC Tuesday, CNBC's Eamon Javers said the White House doesn't think it "would end well" if Trump met with Pelosi. "It's a tragic statement that because he's so wounded — I mean, we're in the middle of a national crisis, and he can't get in a room with the speaker of the House?" host Nicole Wallace asked. "What the White House would say is, that's Pelosi's fault," Javers said. "Because she ripped up his speech, she's been tough on him, she impeached him, and therefore the president has every right to not want to be in a room with her."

In fact, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Monday that Trump had declined Pelosi's invitation to attend the annual St. Patrick's Day lunch — a bipartisan tradition that started in 1983 as a fence-mending gathering hosted by House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass) for President Ronald Reagan — because "the speaker has chosen to tear this nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric."

"You know, Bill Clinton built part of his political narrative by saying 'I feel your pain,'" former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) told Wallace on Tuesday. "Donald Trump is asking the nation to feel his, and it is a weird leadership quality in a moment of crisis."


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