I have to start with a mea culpa.
I’ve been in this town for almost twenty years. Today, I’m reminded of an age-old lesson in Washington – the deal is never done until it is done.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spent much of yesterday in conversations with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) , Secretary Mnuchin, and House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA).
Yesterday’s negotiations did not yield an agreement as we were told late last night. Instead, negotiations have continued today amongst the respective leaders.
The Senate held a vote to proceed (known as a cloture vote) to the legislation released by Leader McConnell S. 3548, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the ‘‘CARES Act’’.
The vote failed 47-47 with McConnell taking to the floor yelling about the obstruction by Democrats.
Despite Leader McConnell’s insistence to vote this afternoon, Speaker Pelosi announced earlier there is no bipartisan agreement.
Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi are working on a counter proposal to the Senate Republican bill which is largely done being drafted at this point. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer remain united throughout this effort, and the Democratic counter proposal is expected to be comprehensive legislation that speaks to the Democratic priorities that they have jointly reiterated over the past few days.
A tentative timeline has an overview of the Democratic proposal possibly being released tonight, with text potentially coming tomorrow. Of course, everything is fluid.
To date, no decisions have been made regarding next steps for this proposal, bringing members back to DC, or alternatives to in-person voting.
The hope remains that the Senate can reach agreement and begin moving forward on a bipartisan deal over the course of today/tomorrow.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference
President Donald Trump
- Expressed gratitude for state and local leaders
- Critical that Americans continue to follow 15-day guidelines.
- Acknowledged Rand Paul testing positive for COVID-19. Spoke to Diaz-Balart yesterday. Just learned that three Senators are self-quarantining because of contact with Rand Paul: Sen. Mitt Romney, Mike Lee, and Rick Scott.
- Working with Congressional leaders on a bill. Once this is over, our economy will skyrocket. We will win this war.
- Working with NY, CA, WA to help support state deployment of national guard. FEMA will reimburse 100% of costs to deploy national guard. Spoke to all 3 governors today. Will have other announcements about these states this week.
- Approve NY request for Major disaster declaration Friday evening.
- Approved WA disaster declaration was approved earlier today.
- Just received CA’s request and will approve it quickly.
- Large quantities of supplies are being sent to these dates. Authorized medical stations and beds to NY, CA, WA. The naval hospital ship will be deployed to LA to help medical capacity. Us Army corps of engineers to build out medical sites.
- Detailed number of masks and respirators that have been delivered to WA, NY and CA but acknowledges his numbers are 3 days old. These three states do need help.
- Honeywell is expanding operations in RI that will be delivered to the states with greatest needs for response workers. I’m addition to Honeywell’s agreement to double production.
- Energy, academia and government will use computer to work with scientists to fight the virus, MIT, Amazon, Google, Apple, NASA, IBM,
- Veterans – bring very protective of veterans’ hospitals. Signed legislation to ensure the GI bill covers distance learning during this crisis. Done a lot to improve Veterans choice and veteran’s accountability and Sec. Wilkie says we have highest poll numbers in history of the VA. And that’s because of Veterans choice and ability to get care from private doctors. Limited access to VA Community Centers.
- Reiterated actions to expand telehealth allowing patients to speak to doctors from home without chance of getting infected.
- Know this is a challenging time and we will prove we can meet the moment. And we are doing all we can to defeat this enemy. Very proud to be your President.
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor
- Reiterated FEMA actions to support CA, NY, WA. Reiterated disaster declarations and supplies are in route to these states and we expect more supplies to be deployed in next 48 hours.
- USS Hospital Ship Mercy is being dispatched to LA immediately. Projections for need for beds in CA is five times what is expected in WA which is why the ship is going to LA. USS Hospital Ship Mercy being dispatched to New York.
- National Guard under authority of each Governor- this is not martial law.
Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro
- Defense Production Act (DFA) is being utilized (this statement is contrary to yesterday’s press conference – confusion over the use of this Act continues)>
- Working with FEMA and HHS to ensure states get the PPE they need.
- Two purposes of DFA: 1) mobilization of industrial base and 2) deployment of resources. We are seeing the greatest mobilization of industrial base since WWII. Mobilization can be repurposing a factory, repurposing alcohol factory to produce sanitizer such as what Pernod Ricard is doing. Another example is Honeywell’s mask production. 2) allocation of resources – if problems in supply chain then will use DFA to break down barriers and hurdle. Message to hoarders – get your supplies to us and if you don’t, then we will come for you to get what we need.
Vice President Mike Pence
- Backlog of testing is being cleared.
- For all commercial labs, HHS is issuing guidance urging hospitals to prioritize in patient testing; patients that are already in the hospital.
- FDA approved new test that will be in production by the end of March that yields results of test in 45 minutes.
- Tomorrow will unveil new guidance for first responders and those in critical industries.
- Americans abroad who need help – call 1888-407-4747 or visit www.step.state.gov to facilitate efforts to bring you home.
During the question and answer portion of the briefing, the President was asked about his opinion on remote voting. He responded that we could have large number of members affected by the virus, and we might be in a position where it is needed. President acknowledged that he supports remote voting if it’s needed. The President also explained that his Administration is looking at what to do with nonviolent prisoners and the issues associated with virus in prisons that has been brought to his attention.