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Washington Report: May 29, 2020 … “Gut-Wrenching Milestone This Week”
29 May 2020

Washington Report: May 29, 2020 … “Gut-Wrenching Milestone This Week”

There Is A Big Complicated Country To Run … Mourning 100,000 … Justice For George Floyd … ‘I can’t breathe’ … MinneChaos … Trump V. Twitter … PPP Extension … The Incomplete Economic Picture … The Incomplete Health Picture … Campaigns Are About Contrasts … and other news of the week.

Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


IT MAY BE EASY TO FORGET amid this pandemic that has killed 100,000 of our fellow Americans, but there’s a big, complicated country that needs to be run. Critical programs expire. Funding runs dry. Policies need reconsideration. Votes need casting. … Politics has turned so virulent and acidic — so caked in mud — that doing one’s job is a career liability instead of a prerequisite for reelection.  AND NOW, as if steering a nation weren’t challenging enough, the governing gods decided our elected officials need to do all of this in an era where breathing the wrong particle of air could quite literally be lethal. And that’s what lead us to today, this Friday morning, May 29, 2020, 158 days before Election Day.” (Politico)

New House Schedule

Roll Call “An updated House legislative calendar for 2020 has only one scheduled voting day in June and 12 in July. It also retains the previously scheduled monthlong August recess and the October break ahead of the November election, though Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is leaving open the possibility of further changes.”
A FEW BIG CHANGES Politico “Typically, the House schedule is divided between district work periods and D.C. work periods. Steny Hoyer is sending out a “Dear Colleague” letter later today that will detail a third category: committee work periods, during which major committees will be in D.C. for markups and hearings without votes on the House floor. This would give major committees uninterrupted time to conduct their business with fewer people in the Capitol complex.
THE THREE MUST-PASS BILLS over the next few months are the National Defense Authorization Act, fiscal year 2021 spending bills and a refresh of highway spending authority. Other priorities include a major water policy bill and bolstering the Affordable Care Act. Committees will hold hybrid hearings in July, with some members in D.C. and others participating from home. The House’s chief administrative officer is busy retrofitting committee rooms with protective equipment like plexiglass.
  • THE SCHEDULE looks like this: The House will be in session “at some point in June, once the Senate does act, for further Floor action” on responding to the coronavirus pandemic, Hoyer writes. He said lawmakers will get at least 72 hours’ notice before any floor action.
  • THE HOUSE will hold committee work from July 6-17, followed by votes July 20-31. This will, in theory, help preserve the August recess.”

PPP Extension:  Step One

BGov “The House voted Thursday to give small businesses financially strapped by the Covid-19 crisis more flexibility to spend forgivable loans for payrolls and expenses from the government’s popular Paycheck Protection Program. The 417-1 vote sends the measure to the Senate, which may seek changes. The bill’s sponsors say urgent action is needed because the eight-week period when proceeds must be spent for loans to be forgiven will begin expiring Friday for the first loan recipients after the Small Business Administration program opened April 3. The House measure would give companies much more time to spend the money — within 24 weeks or until the end of the year, whichever comes first — and still qualify to have their PPP loans forgiven. Businesses would also have up to five years, instead of two years, to repay any money owed on a loan and could use a greater percentage of proceeds on rent and other approved non-payroll expenses.” ALSO, The House bill, H.R. 7010, would lower to 60% the current requirement that 75% of a loan be used on payroll.

FISA: What’s Next?

Roll Call “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer announced Thursday that a bill to reauthorize and overhaul surveillance authorities was being pulled from the floor schedule as confusion, disagreement and tweets from the president leave the measure’s future in doubt.”

U.S. Death Toll Reaches 100,000

On Wednesday, a somber, gut-wrenching milestone in the coronavirus pandemic.  One hundred thousand Americans dead in less than four months. … YET the demise of these people has had strangely little public impact in a country with a long history of honoring its fallen and committing to common cause in their memory. … There has been as yet no national requiem, no moment that captures the collective sense of loss, no president standing atop the ruins, rallying the nation through a bullhorn.
WaPo graphic “Each of those deaths is represented as a ray of light.”

Justice For George Floyd

WaPo “Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday afternoon.
Chauvin is the former police officer who was captured on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck on Monday as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd later died.
StarTribune “The Twin Cities convulsed with chaos for a third straight night of violent unrest Thursday in the wake of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
…About 1:30 a.m. Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey, who previously had held news conferences to denounce Floyd’s death and call for the arrest of the officers involved, held one to address the chaos of the past three days. … Though acknowledging protesters’ “pain and anger,” he said, “What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights is unacceptable. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food. They are essential to our community.”
“I can’t breathe.”
-George Floyd, 47, who died Monday evening, handcuffed, while a policeman knelt on his neck
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
-Minneapolis Mayor, Jacob Frey
“Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”
-Will Smith, actor
**AND THIS — WaPo .. “George Floyd and fired police officer Derek Chauvin knew each other because they worked security jobs at the same night club. Both men worked at El Nuevo Rodeo on Lake Street before their last encounter, which left Floyd dead and a city in turmoil.”

Trump v. Twitter

Hive “The president, who has used Twitter to spread lies, conspiracy theories, and hate speech unchecked for years, retaliate[d] against the company on Thursday after it finally fact-checked a couple of his bogus tweets.”
theSkimm “Yesterday, Trump signed an executive order cracking down on legal protections for social media companies. The move comes after Trump correlated mail-in voting and voter fraud in a tweet – which Twitter flagged as “potentially misleading.” Currently, social media companies can choose what content goes on their platforms. But are also protected from being liable for the content posted by its users thanks to a 1996 law. The executive order would allow regulators to argue that social media companies are censoring free speech when they delete users’ posts or accounts. And calls on independent agencies, the Justice Department, and states to carry out the new policy. The order is expected to be challenged in court.

Round Two

Today, Twitter also said one of Trump’s tweets about the Minneapolis protesters glorified violence and violated its policies. Users can’t see the tweet until they read a notice about it. But Twitter didn’t take the tweet down, saying it was important for the public to see “given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

Primer on the Right to Free Speech

WaPo “It’s right there in the First Amendment of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech,” in addition to other freedoms such as religion and press and the right to assemble. And for centuries, the courts have erred on stringently protecting people’s freedom of speech from government intervention.”

“That doesn’t apply to what Twitter did, for two reasons:

  1. Twitter is a private company, not a government. The government can’t push a private company to publish something it doesn’t want to publish, said John Morris, who has served in leading telecommunication roles in two presidential administrations and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  2. Twitter is a platform that can regulate its content as it wishes, in accordance with its own terms of service. Morris said there are no laws that restrict the ability of platforms or websites to regulate their content. And if Trump doesn’t like it, he is welcome to go to another platform.”

The Incomplete Economic Picture

WaPo “Breaking precedent, White House won’t release formal economic projections this summer that would forecast extent of downturn” … “The White House is supposed to unveil a federal budget proposal every February and then typically provides a ‘mid-session review’ in July or August with updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth. Budget experts said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this ‘mid-session review’ document in any other year since at least the 1970s.”

Another 2.1 Million Workers

Politico “U.S. workers filed 2.1 million new unemployment claims last week, the Department of Labor reported. The ten-week total for claims reached 40.8 million, suggesting about a quarter [1 in 4] of the workforce … is without a job.

The Incomplete Health Picture

WSJ “Most Countries Fail to Capture Extent of Covid-19 Deaths“ … “A growing pool of global death statistics indicates that few countries are accurately capturing fatalities from the new coronavirus — and in some the shortfall is significant. In the U.S., Russia, the U.K., the Netherlands and many other countries, the number of deaths recorded from all causes has jumped since March and far exceeded the number of deaths those countries report as linked to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Belgium, which appears to have the world’s highest per-capita Covid-19 death rate, has emerged as an exception. Unlike most countries and many U.S. states, which list only Covid-19 deaths confirmed by tests, Belgium also tallies suspected Covid-19 fatalities. The approach sparked public criticism in Belgium last month for putting the country in a bad light, but France, the U.K., New York state and other jurisdictions have shifted toward the same methodology as Belgium.”

Final Data For Remdesiver … Disappointing

Axios “Remdesivir does indeed work for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to expert reads of the data that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. YES, BUT … The benefits remain rather limited, as patients on the drug leave the hospital in 11 days vs. 15 days. Remdesivir appeared to have no effect for the sickest patients who were on a ventilator or an ECMO machine. The drug also did not lead to a statistically significant drop in deaths, just as the early readout suggested.”

Wearing A Face Mask Is NOT About Politics

Axios “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he will sign an executive order authorizing private businesses to deny people entry if they are not wearing a mask or face covering. Why it matters: Wearing face masks has become a political symbol for some Americans, despite public health officials urging people to do so to prevent community spread.
Axios “President Trump has resisted wearing face coverings in public and ridiculed Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for doing so this week. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly sided with CDC guidelines during a Kentucky event to deliver his message to young people. “There’s no stigma attached to wearing a mask,” he said. “There’s no stigma attached to staying six feet apart.” McConnell has also taken to posting images to Instagram in recent days of himself wearing a mask.”

Where U.S. Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise

“Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis.  “South Carolina had the biggest weekly increase at 42%. Alabama’s new cases rose 28% from the previous week, Missouri’s rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines.” Reuters

Downsides Of Remote Work

… less casual interaction with colleagues, an over-reliance on Zoom, lack of in-person collaboration and longer hours — could over time diminish the short-term gains. … A majority of U.S. remote workers (59%) report feeling as productive as they do in the office, according to a Morning Consult survey of full-time workers, on behalf of Prudential. But about half also report feeling less connected to their company (55%), more stressed in ways that negatively impact their work (46%), and working more hours from home (47%).

Campaign 2020

Campaigns Are About Contrasts

Politico “Campaigns, it is said, are about contrasts. And rarely is a candidate afforded the opportunity Joe Biden has today: the ability to sift through the wreckage and unrest piling up on his opponent’s watch in real time. If ever there were an opportunity in this frenzied, crowded, loud and confused media climate for Biden to sear a split-screen image into the minds of Americans — 158 days before Election Day.
Biden will speak about the unrest in Minneapolis from his home in Delaware sometime early this afternoon, and President Trump will hold a news conference in the White House Rose Garden at 2 p.m.

Biden’s Virtual Convention Dry Run

Axios “Joe Biden will help close out the Texas Democratic Party’s all-virtual convention next week as one of the event’s major speakers. Why it matters: Given Texas’ size, the event could serve as a test run for large-scale virtual events, as planners consider whether part of the Democratic National Convention — scheduled for Milwaukee in August — should be virtual.
The Texas Democratic Party has been in contact with the Democratic National Convention throughout the planning to trade best practices. To avoid technical difficulties, speakers are pre-recording videos that will play during a nine-hour livestream on June 1.
ALSO, Joe Biden said Wednesday night at a fundraiser that he will name his running mate by Aug. 1st.

Who Wants To Host A Convention?

CNBC “Republican National Convention organizers appear to have hit an impasse with the state of North Carolina over social distancing at the party’s nominating convention, scheduled to be held in Charlotte in late August. Officials from North Carolina requested in a letter released Friday that the Republican National Committee expand on their plans to host the convention safely while adhering to social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and enforced by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. But the RNC has skirted the issue of releasing a social distancing plan in their discussions with North Carolina.
The coronavirus pandemic has cut the president off from his beloved rallies … [and] without the image on television of a packed convention hall wildly cheering for Trump, the president reportedly feels his campaign would appear diminished, and he would be deprived of the scenery that befits an incumbent president being renominated by his party.”
HANDS RAISED Politico “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said: “With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention. We hope you will consider the Peach State, @realDonaldTrump!”  And … Gov. DeSantis, governor of FL says his people have spoken to the WH to express interest in hosting the GOP convention.”

NYSE Opens

WSJ “Gov. Cuomo, wearing a mask, rang the opening bell as the New York Stock Exchange resumed floor trading Tuesday with plexiglass barriers to keep traders apart. The number of traders on the floor was limited to a quarter of the usual, and masks were required. Traders also are required to avoid public transit.”

DC Opens

AP “The nation’s capital began a gradual reopening Thursday, even as Mayor Muriel Bowser warns that it probably will result in more coronavirus infections. Restaurants will be permitted to seat guests outdoors, barbers and hair salons will open with limited capacity, and nonessential businesses will be allowed to offer curbside or front-door pickup services.  But nail parlors, gyms and public playgrounds will remain closed. Gatherings of more than 10 people will be prohibited. The backdrop: D.C. had 263.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita.

30,000-Foot View Of Coronavirus

“Boeing and Airbus Study How Coronavirus Behaves During Air Travel“ – “Boeing said it is developing computer models that simulate the cabin environment and could ultimately inform decisions by airlines, health officials and regulators on how to prevent the virus’s spread. … Airbus engineers are also exploring other methods of reducing the spread of the virus including self-cleaning materials, a disinfectant that can last for five days and touchless devices in lavatories, the company said.” WSJ

The Zoom Of Sports

WaPo “Japan may have the answer to the uncanny valley of empty sports stadiums: a “Remote Cheerer” app that delivers fan reactions in real-time. The app lets soccer fans “choose a range of reactions — from cheer, chant, clap or shout to groan and boo — with a simple tap of their smartphones.” “At one point during the system field test, I closed my eyes and it felt like the cheering fans were right there in the stadium with me,” a stadium official said.

Space Drama

Axios “The NASA/SpaceX “Launch America,” the first astronauts to launch from the U.S. in nine years, now moves to Saturday at 3:22 p.m. ET.

The weather call to scrap Wednesday’s attempt came just 17 minutes before liftoff, with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken already loaded into the capsule and fueling of the rocket underway.”

It’s going to be quite a show.

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