September 18, 2021

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return | TheHill

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 129,947; Tuesday, 130,306.

States and cities continue to grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus as some moved on Monday to roll back phased business reopenings at the same time that schools and universities announced adjustments to resume classes in the fall. 

Texas, Florida and Arizona — states hit hard by the coronavirus — each saw new milestone infection numbers on Monday. Texas and Florida each eclipsed 200,000 reported COVID-19 cases, while Arizona’s total surpassed 100,000. The Grand Canyon State saw confirmed cases double within the last two and a half weeks. 

The spread of the coronavirus also forced Miami-Dade County to close bars, restaurants, gyms and other facilities in an effort to curb transmissions. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez (D) also warned that while beaches will reopen today, they could be closed if social distancing guidelines are not observed or officials see overcrowding.

USA Today: Is it safe for Walt Disney World to reopen this weekend as coronavirus cases soar in Florida?

The Associated Press: Hospitals approaching capacity as Miami closes restaurants.

Despite the surge of infections in those states, federal health officials warned Monday that the nation is still battling the first wave of the virus and had not contained the epidemic before states began to reopen and numbers began climbing again. For the umpteenth time, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: State of US coronavirus outbreak ‘really not good’ Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged Americans to practice social distancing and avoid crowds.

“The current state is really not good.I would say this would not be considered a wave,” Fauci said of the new highs in daily confirmed cases that have been reported. “It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline that really never got down to where we wanted to go.”

“Avoid crowds,” he said, noting that Europe is dealing with “blips” after flattening curves across the continent. “If you’re going to have a social function, maybe a single couple or two — do it outside if you’re going to do it. Those are fundamental, and everybody can do that right now” (NBC News).

The Washington Post: States mandate masks, begin to shut down again as coronavirus cases soar.

The New York Times: Months into virus crisis, U.S. cities still lack testing capacity.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) tests positive for COVID-19.

Because the country is reporting an average of 55,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, the White House is under increased scrutiny. Public health experts and Democrats argued on Monday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN’s Anderson Cooper: Trump’s Bubba Wallace tweet was ‘racist, just plain and simple’ Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE was making the crisis worse by effectively denying that new outbreaks and hospitalizations are a problem. 

“He is facilitating the virus. He is enabling the virus,” New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoOvernight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response Cuomo: Trump ‘enabling the virus’ MORE (D) said Monday while pointing to charts showing rising U.S. cases, compared with falling numbers of confirmed new cases in other Western democracies. 

The governor’s remarks followed the president’s misleading claim over the weekend that COVID-19 is “harmless” to 99 percent of those who contract the disease. Trump asserts the surge in infections results from more testing. As The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann writes, experts say that both claims are false and could negatively influence people’s behaviors during the pandemic. 

Nevertheless, White House officials endorsed the president’s inaccurate remarks on Monday. Chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE made his first appearance on cable news since taking over the role to argue that the vast majority of people are safe from the virus (The Hill). 

“If you’re over 80 years of age or you have three what you call comorbidities — diabetes, hypertension, heart issues — then you need to be very, very careful,” the former North Carolina congressman told “Fox & Friends.” “Outside of that, the risks are extremely low and the president is right on that, and the facts and the statistics back us up there.

On the schooling front, a number of Ivy League universities revealed plans for the 2020-21 school year that include bringing only a fraction of the total number of undergraduates back to campus at certain points of the calendar year. Harvard University said it will allow all freshmen on campus for the fall, with seniors coming back for the spring semester, accommodating 40 percent of enrolled students each semester. 

Princeton University rolled out a plan to allow 50 percent of undergraduates on campus each semester, allowing freshmen and juniors back in the fall semester. Sophomores and seniors will return in the spring. Princeton also offered a 10 percent reduction in tuition (CNN). 

Finally, Yale University will bring roughly 60 percent of students to campus for the year, with freshmen allowed in the fall and sophomores in the spring. Juniors and seniors will be able to be on campus for the duration of the school year (CNN).  

CNN: International students may need to leave the United States if their universities transition to online-only learning.

The moves illustrate the problems facing schools at all levels only weeks before classes are set to begin, which The Hill’s Reid Wilson explores. The issues Israel has faced in recent weeks also serves as a cautionary tale as the country shut down nearly 100 schools in early June when students and teachers tested positive for the virus. 

The University of Washington reported an outbreak as 121 students living in fraternities tested positive for the virus in recent days. 

The Associated Press: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros cancel workouts over virus testing delays.

The Washington Post: Testing problems cast doubt on viability of MLB season, days after baseball’s return.

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2020 POLITICS: If Trump has crafted a strategy beyond playing to his die-hard supporters to try to win reelection, GOP House and Senate candidates want to know what it is. The president’s evident enthusiasm for stirring controversies over race and cultural divisions in the run-up to Election Day has many Republican candidates nervous. With every tweet that takes aim, for instance, at the only full-time NASCAR driver who is African American (as Trump did on Monday), the president also motivates progressive voters and supporters of his opponent, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge Atlanta mayor says she has tested positive for COVID-19 Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response MORE, even if his own base applauds his actions (The Hill).

The Hill: Trump swipes at NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag, says driver Bubba Wallace should apologize.

The Hill: Wallace (pictured below with Trump in 2014) responded to the president: “Love over hate every day.”

As Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, the president’s tweet was another example of Trump’s willingness to engage in culture war tactics that he presumably hopes will enthuse his base. But polls suggest Trump may be a man out of time, believing that his stances are more popular than they actually are.

The Hill: A new Gallup survey released on Monday showed Trump’s job approval plummeting anew among all sub-segments of the electorate from May to June, except among Republicans (91 percent said they approve of the job he’s doing). The steepest drop (10 points) appeared among female voters.

The Washington Post reports that advisers to the Trump and Biden campaigns say they are now concentrating on the nation’s coronavirus response as the “preeminent force shaping the results of November’s election.” The president’s team is looking for ways to reframe Trump’s response to the coronavirus — “even as the president himself largely seeks to avoid the topic because he views it as a political loser.”

> Garden State: Democrats in New Jersey are vying for the chance to challenge Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jefferson Van Drew in what stands to be one of the state’s most contentious primaries today. Five candidates are competing, with political pundit and professor Brigid Callahan Harrison and Amy Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy political dynasty, leading the way. The race is expected to generate enthusiasm among Democrats who say they are eager to defeat Van Drew, who switched parties after opposing Trump’s impeachment. He won his seat in 2018 as a Democrat (The Hill). … In New Jersey, Democratic Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellNew Jersey lawmaker recovering from heart surgery ahead of primary Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week Pelosi throws cold water on impeaching Barr MORE, 83, needed emergency heart bypass surgery on Sunday, just days before the primaries. Pascrell tweeted his expectation for recovery: “Not a wknd I was expecting from a little heartburn!” he wrote on Twitter. “It’ll take a lot more to stop me. #JerseyStrong” (Politico).

> Utah: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox dashed former Gov. Jon Huntsman’s hopes for a comeback by winning the Republican gubernatorial primary in Utah. Huntsman, a 2012 presidential candidate, stepped down last year from his post as U.S. ambassador to Russia. The June 30 primary was conducted mostly by mail; the Associated Press called the results Monday night and Huntsman conceded the primary race (The Washington Post).  

> Republican National Convention: How many lawmakers, governors, VIPs and party stalwarts will be tempted by August to follow the lead of Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley won’t attend GOP convention amid coronavirus uptick Meadows teases Trump action on immigration, China, prescription drugs Trump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP MORE (R-Iowa), who said on Monday that his party will not find him in Jacksonville, Fla., when Trump accepts the nomination. For the first time since his election to the Senate 40 years ago, Grassley will skip the GOP convention. The 86-year-old said his reason is COVID-19. “I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” the senator said Monday morning on a conference call with reporters (Des Moines Register).

CONGRESS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Trump administration releases PPP loan data | Congress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits | McConnell opens door to direct payments in next coronavirus bill Trump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE (R-Ky.) indicated on Monday that he is open to including more direct payments in a fifth coronavirus-related package, which the Senate is expected to take up upon its return from the July Fourth recess. 

During one of his three appearances back home in Kentucky, McConnell said that funding for more direct payments “could well” be part of the next package after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March included payments of $1,200 to those making less than $75,000. 

“I think the people that have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 or less. Many of them work in the hospitality industry. …. That could well be a part of it,” McConnell said (The Hill). 

The comments represent the clearest indication from the Senate GOP leader that there could be another round of direct payments despite an initial reticence among some Senate Republicans.

Fox Business: Labor Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaSunday shows – FDA commissioner declines to confirm Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are ‘harmless’ Labor secretary: ‘I believe we can continue to reopen our workplaces safely’ Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE says extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance no longer needed.

> Fiscal 2021: House Democrats on Monday took aim at a number of the president’s political priorities as they issued the initial salvo in the effort to fund the government for fiscal 2021. 

As Niv Elis writes, Democrats released seven of the 12 annual spending bills, each of which included policies and riders that targeted the president, including the exclusion of funding for the border wall and to rescind funds previously approved for 2020. The military construction and veterans’ affairs bill refused to backfill accounts for projects Trump emptied out and redirected for the wall. It also barred construction on the wall.

Democrats are also using the appropriations battle as the vehicle to remove statues of Confederate figures and “individuals with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” from the Capitol complex (The Hill).

The Hill: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November Trump administration praises UK sanctions on human rights abusers MORE called before House panel over Russian bounty claims.

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WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration on Monday released the names of hundreds of thousands of businesses that took money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $660 billion pandemic rescue lending program enacted in March. The information disclosed how the majority of the cash was spent by the government and whether it helped save jobs. The Treasury and the Small Business Administration said they released data for more than half a million loans of $150,000 or more. Democrats called for more transparency involving loans as yet not described, even as news outlets pored over lists of recipients (The Hill and Reuters).

The Hill: Lobbying groups received millions of dollars in PPP loans.

CNN: Coronavirus relief loans went to hair salons, restaurants, law firms — and some members of Congress.

The Associated Press: Small business aid went beyond hard-hit companies, data show.

Reuters: Wall Street investors scored emergency federal loans amid the pandemic. Examples: Semper Capital Management LP, which bets more than $2 billion on mortgage and other asset-backed securities; Domini Impact Investments LLC, a mutual fund manager with about $2 billion under management; Brevet Holdings LLC, a $1.2 billion lending firm; and Truvvo Wealth Management LP, which manages more than $2 billion for large families and institutions.

The New York Times: Kanye WestKanye Omari WestKanye West’s company got PPP loan Kanye tweets he’s running for president The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report MORE? The Girl Scouts? Hedge Funds? They all got PPP loans.

The Associated Press: Trump donors benefit: The federal government awarded at least $273 million in loans to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to Trump’s election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of the data.

> Immigration: Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by executive action after the Supreme Court ruled last month that the administration has the authority to end deferred deportation for program recipients but had not previously provided sufficient legal justification.

If the Trump administration files this week, the new DACA policy will coincide with an official visit from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, the country of origin for a majority of DACA beneficiaries. Obrador will visit the White House on Wednesday to mark the effective date of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (The Hill). … Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauTrudeau turned down visit to Washington to celebrate new trade agreement: report Trudeau warns he may skip USMCA summit over US tariff threat, pandemic Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE will not attend (The Associated Press).

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco struck down Trump’s policy that barred most migrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they had passed through another country, concluding that the government did “virtually nothing” to make sure that another country is “a safe option” for those fleeing persecution.

The appeals court affirmed the decision of a federal judge who ruled last year that the so-called third-country transit rule was unlawful, with one judge calling it “perhaps the most significant change to American asylum in a generation.” The ruling was an interim but important step. In September, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s rule forbidding most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States to take effect while the appeals courts deliberated its legality. That stay remains in place until the Supreme Court takes up the case or the Trump administration abandons the policy (The New York Times).

> China & TikTok: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, suggesting the platform that is wildly popular among younger users had shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied (Reuters). … TikTok says it will exit Hong Kong after China imposed a national security law (The Wall Street Journal, subscription). … Last week, India banned 50 mostly Chinese apps, including TikTok (Reuters).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

Will Twitter make @realDonaldTrump a one-term president? by Scott Goodstein, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZLOH3d

Justice Roberts plays the long game, by Lawrence Friedman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/38wozh3

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The House meets Thursday at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session and won’t get back to legislative business until July 20.

The Senate meets on Thursday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m., and receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFox News apologizes for ‘mistakenly’ cropping Trump out of photo with Epstein, Maxwell The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the Electoral College Kimberly Guilfoyle tests positive for coronavirus MORE will participate in a “National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America’s Schools” at 3 p.m. in the East Room.

INVITATION: Join The Hill Virtually Live on Thursday for “Health Reimagined: The Future of Healthcare.” Leaders talk about lessons from the pandemic, medical breakthroughs, treatments and cures, and eliminating racial disparities. National Institute of Health’s Fauci; Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap after strong jobs report MORE (D-Ill.), a registered nurse; physician and American Medical Association President Patrice Harris; and more will join Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons.

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

➔ Supreme Court: Justices ruled unanimously on Monday that states can prohibit their Electoral College representatives from disregarding voters when casting their ballots in presidential elections. The decision gives states the right to outlaw “faithless electors” who cast their votes for candidates other than those chosen by voters. “Nothing in the Constitution expressly prohibits States from taking away presidential electors’ voting discretion as Washington does,” Justice Elena KaganElena KaganThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the Electoral College Supreme Court rules states can remove ‘faithless electors’ On The Money: Governors rethink opening bars, restaurants amid spike in COVID-19 cases | Spiking cases threaten fragile economic recovery | Supreme Court rules consumer bureau director can be fired at will MORE wrote in the majority decision, referring to the case before the court. Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C., have laws requiring their electors to abide by the outcome of the election. But only 11 of those states have laws allowing them to nullify faithless electors’ votes or remove them from office (The Hill). … On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on robocalls to cell phones (The Associated Press). … Also on Monday, justices reinstated fast-track pipeline construction permitting, except for the Keystone XL pipeline (The Hill).

Trump family tell-all: Simon & Schuster announced Monday that “Too Much and Never Enough,” by the president’s niece, Mary Trump, has been fast-tracked “due to high demand and extraordinary interest” and will now be released on July 14 — two weeks earlier than the initial release date (The New York Times). 

➔ Music: Charlie Daniels, the famed fiddler and country artist, died on Monday at the age of 83. The Country Music Hall of Famer, best known for his 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died at a hospital in Hermitage, Tenn., after suffering a stroke (The Associated Press).

And finally …  There’s a new financial standard bearer in sports. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, 24, agreed to a 10-year extension worth $503 million on Monday, making it not only the largest NFL contract, but the largest contract in sports history. The deal is added on to the final two years of the Super Bowl XIV MVP’s rookie contract.

Included in the deal is $140 million in injury guarantees and a no-trade clause. Shortly after news of the record-setting deal emerged, Mahomes tweeted that he is “here to stay” in Kansas City (ESPN).





This post originally appeared on and written by:
Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver
The Hill

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