What Now?! – May 2, 2020

Playbook: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are now saying they will not agree to any coronavirus stimulus bill that does not include protections for employers from lawsuits in the post-coronavirus world — called liability protections.”

“A leadership told us Thursday night that liability protections are a ‘red line’ in the upcoming negotiations.”

Ezra Klein: “Democrats are acting as the governing party even though they’re in the minority. They’re fighting for the baseline policies that any normal administration, Republican or Democrat, would be begging for right now.”

“This is an inversion of the traditional relationship between the White House and the opposition party. Typically, in a crisis, the administration would be pushing to do more, do it faster, and the minority party would be deciding whether to block those efforts or attach their own ideological priorities onto them. That’s because the administration knows it will be blamed for failure. But the Trump administration has refused responsibility for this crisis, and it has repeatedly wanted both less funding and less authority than congressional Democrats want to give it.”

Politico: “The left has been almost uniformly — and loudly — in favor of sacrificing many personal liberties in exchange for containing the virus’s spread. The right has been divided, but the vocal activist wing of conservatism that has enormous influence on social media and Fox News, has been far more willing to attack the various infringements on where people can go and what they have to wear.”

“The mask has become the ultimate symbol of this new cultural and political divide. For progressives, masks have become a sign that you take the pandemic seriously and are willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives. Prominent people who don’t wear them are shamed and dragged on Twitter by lefty accounts. On the right, where the mask is often seen as the symbol of a purported overreaction to the coronavirus, mask promotion is a target of ridicule, a sign that in a deeply polarized America almost anything can be politicized and turned into a token of tribal affiliation.”

Washington Post: “Nearly 300 public companies have reported receiving money from the fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program… Recipients include 43 companies with more than 500 workers, the maximum typically allowed by the program. Several other recipients were prosperous enough to pay executives $2 million or more.”

“After the first pool of $349 billion ran dry, leaving more than 80 percent of applicants without funding, outrage over the millions of dollars that went to larger firms prompted some companies to return the money.”

“From the very beginning, this administration made the decision that there was no legitimate role for the federal government to play in responding to this crisis. It wasn’t an accident they didn’t request any money in the early days. They really believed, as they believe today, that this is a problem states and local governments should confront.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), quoted by Vox, on the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Times: “As the death toll from the coronavirus over eight weeks surpasses the total American military casualties in eight years of major combat in Vietnam, Mr. Trump has led no national mourning. In his daily news conferences, he makes only perfunctory references to those who have died as he stiffly reads opening remarks, exhibiting more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents.”

“Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump’s political assets. He views public displays of sadness as weakness and has made a point of stressing resolve, even at the risk of overlooking the deep pain afflicting so much of the country. His favorite words in his televised appearances of recent weeks are ‘powerful’ and ‘strong.’ He talks of ‘incredible’ days ahead without dwelling on the miserable days of now. He plans fireworks while Americans plan funerals.”

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and won’t be controlled until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune, Bloomberg reports.

From a University of Minnesota report: “Because of its ability to spread from people who don’t appear to be ill, the virus may be harder to control than influenza, the cause of most pandemics in recent history… People may actually be at their most infectious before symptoms appear, according to the report.”

President Trump contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community by claiming that he has seen evidence that gives him a “high degree of confidence” the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, CNN reports.

The comments undercut a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued just hours earlier which stated no such assessment has been made.

“Vice President Pence’s office has threatened to retaliate against a reporter who revealed that Pence’s office had told journalists they would need masks for Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic — a requirement Pence himself did not follow,” the Washington Post reports.

tweet by Steve Herman “apparently enraged Pence’s staff, which told Herman that he had violated the off-the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to him and other reporters in advance of Pence’s trip.”

“The federal government placed orders for well over 100,000 new body bags to hold victims of COVID-19 in April,” NBC News reports.

“The biggest set was earmarked for purchase the day after President Donald Trump projected that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus might not exceed 50,000 or 60,000 people.”

Slate: “What’s a bit odd about all of this is that GOP leaders are acting as if they have an upper hand on this issue, because only Democratic strongholds like New York and Illinois are in trouble. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Red states are also fiscally screwed thanks to the coronavirus, and in many cases may be in worse shape than supposedly irresponsible blue states.”

“It’s unclear why, exactly, some Republicans appear convinced that only political entities that happen to be run by Democrats are about to experience a financial rout.”

“The Capitol’s attending physician said Thursday that coronavirus tests will be available for staffers and senators who are ill, but not enough to proactively test all 100 senators as the chamber comes back in session,” Politico reports.

“In a conference call with top GOP officials, Dr. Brian Monahan said there is not sufficient capacity to quickly test senators for coronavirus — a contrast with the White House, where any people meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are tested for the disease. Monahan said test results in the Senate will take two or more days, while the White House has rapid testing.”

Washington Post: Democrats question McConnell’s decision to return Senate to business.

President Trump said he would “certainly consider” bringing former national security adviser Michael Flynn, now a convicted felon, back into his administration, CBS News reports.

Flynn was fired after only days on the job in 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with the Russian envoy to the U.S. ahead of Trump’s inauguration. 

Said a Trump: “I think he’s a fine man. I think it’s terrible what they did to him.”

“The Secret Service rented a room at President Trump’s Washington hotel for 137 consecutive nights in 2017 — paying Trump’s company more than $33,000 — so it could guard Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin while he lived in one of the hotel’s luxury suites,” the Washington Post reports.

“Mnuchin, a financier from New York, lived in the Trump International Hotel for several months before moving to a home in Washington.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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