Why the economic rescue package is causing some heartburn
with help from Marianne LeVine
THE BACKLASH BEGINS -- Congress moved at lightning speed to pass a historic, $2 trillion economic rescue package last month. But the quick action may have come at a cost: the law has already experienced a number of hiccups and glitches. Some examples include big restaurant chains being able to snatch up loans intended for struggling small businesses, direct cash payments being sent to deceased people and wealthy universities in line to get a slice of federal aid for students and campuses.
With the problems piling up — and Democrats already crafting their next relief package — lawmakers are worried that the law isn’t working as intended. Not to mention, key oversight mechanisms still aren’t in place even though stimulus funds are flowing. “Our constituents have a lot of questions about where the hell this $3 billion is going and why it isn’t coming into their pockets,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa). Here’s an exhaustive look at all the issues with the law from Kyle and Sarah, with an assist from our expert Pro reporters: https://politi.co/3cUzToe.
BUT ... those aren’t the only frustrations among lawmakers. House Democrats are growing increasingly worried about their effectiveness, given that committees can’t meet in person, lawmakers can’t vote remotely, Trump administration officials aren’t testifying and even classified briefings have been paused. “We’re basically ill-prepared for the nature of this emergency,” Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash) told WaPo. “It’s harder for us to exercise oversight when we’re all at home in our war rooms.” More from Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane: https://wapo.st/2zynHuR.
Rank-and-file members are keeping the pressure on Democratic leaders to enable some kind of remote voting plan. The New Democrat Coalition — the largest coalition in the Democratic caucus — is sending a letter to leadership this morning calling for a bipartisan agreement and demanding a vote on the issue no later than the week of May 4. “We acknowledge that changing the House Rules is not easy, but it is crucial in these circumstances,” the coalition writes, according to a copy of the letter obtained by your Huddle host. “As we urge the public to observe social distancing practices … Congress must itself adapt to the public health threat our nation faces.” An exclusive look at the letter: https://politi.co/2yIjjZL.
SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI acknowledged those frustrations during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper yesterday. And a bipartisan task force, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will continue discussions this week about how Congress can still function during the pandemic. “The Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, has assured me that he will consider this. He's not there yet. He could be there,” Pelosi said of proxy voting. “[O]f course some of the members are frustrated, because we — our physical presence isn't here to have a classified briefing. That presence would be necessary." The full and newsy CNN interview: https://cnn.it/2VIWPB7.
Related reads: “Remote vote? In Trump shadow, stay-home Congress eyes change,” by the AP’s Lisa Mascaro: https://bit.ly/359I3q8; and “Inside Jim Clyburn’s agenda for investigating — and influencing — coronavirus spending,” via Emma Dumain of McClatchy: https://bit.ly/2yJfSC4.
SIGN OF THE TIMES -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing to include a provision in the next coronavirus package that would prohibit President Donald Trump from signing his name to stimulus checks or other government materials. "President Trump unfortunately appears to see the pandemic as just another opportunity to promote his own political interests,” Schumer said in a statement. “The No PR Act puts an end to the president’s exploitation of taxpayer money for promotional material that only benefits his re-election campaign.”
Schumer's proposal comes after the Treasury Department ordered Trump's signature to appear on millions of stimulus checks, following passage of the CARES Act. More from Marianne: https://politi.co/3eWolTa.
UPDATES FROM GATES -- Per Heather: House Democrats will host a caucus call this afternoon with Bill and Melinda Gates. The topic: “A discussion on COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research and an update on Cares 2.0.” Gates wrote a blog post recently about the scientific advances needed to defeat coronavirus and predicted it would take a long time before packed stadiums and big concerts resume. "And it is impossible to overstate the pain that people are feeling now and will continue to feel for years to come,” he wrote.
HAPPY MONDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this April 27, where your host thinks it’s adorable that Brad Pitt played Dr. Anthony Fauci on SNL, fulfilling his premonition.
FRIDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Bres and Sarah’s story on the unusual scene on Capitol Hill last week was the big winner.
SPENDING PAINS -- There’s a new rift emerging in the GOP, with many Republicans growing tired of big government spending to fight the pandemic — a dynamic that will certainly impact the next round of negotiations. WaPo’s Seung Min Kim has the story: “President Trump is promoting costly ideas such as infrastructure investment and a payroll tax cut as his top economic official plays down the impact of additional virus spending on the national debt. But at the same time, senior Senate Republicans are increasingly warning about the effect on the nation’s liabilities, even as some of their own members lobby for expensive proposals to rescue an economy still in a free fall.
“It is … stirring a debate among Republicans about how substantial the package should be and whether concerns about debt are misplaced at a time of economic crisis, when the government continues to be able to borrow at rock-bottom prices. After years of pillorying the Obama administration over spending and blocking efforts to pump more money into the economy following the 2008 financial crisis, GOP leaders now find themselves struggling with how to balance the need to prop up the struggling economy ahead of the fall’s elections with concerns that too much spending could hurt them with their base of voters.” More: https://wapo.st/2yPMmuh.
Related reads: "Coronavirus Means the Era of Big Government Is...Back," by WSJ's Gerald Seib and John McCormick: https://on.wsj.com/3aFDZ1N; and “GOP senators open to more emergency relief for states amid divide in party,” via CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox: https://cnn.it/359N3L4.
VEEPSTAKES -- If history is any indicator, the odds are high that Joe Biden plucks his running mate from the Senate. And the jockeying is just beginning in the upper chamber, where six female senators are seen as potential VP contenders. Marianne and Burgess with the dispatch: “After seven Democrats ran for president, no fewer than six Democratic women senators are in the mix to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate. Biden is a creature of the Senate who served there for 36 years and at times still acts like he’s a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus. History is also on their side: It’s been 36 years since the Democratic Party didn’t run a senator as a vice presidential candidate.
“Biden has said he'll choose a woman. And the focus on the party’s array of female lawmakers is leading to a burgeoning campaign among the rank and file to boost the prospects of their preferred picks. … Biden served alongside Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; as vice president, he worked with Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin as well as Tammy Duckworth of Illinois while she was in the House. He campaigned for [Catherine] Cortez Masto of Nevada in 2016 and this year ran against Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Klobuchar and Warren for the Democratic nomination.” More: https://politi.co/3aGJltB.
Related: “U.S. House Speaker Pelosi Endorses Biden for President,” from Bloomberg’s Deana Kjuka: https://bloom.bg/2KFmxQx.
TOUGH ON CHINA -- Republicans have a new talking point — and it could be a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign. Alex Isenstadt explains: “The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a detailed, 57-page memo authored by a top Republican strategist advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China. The memo includes advice on everything from how to tie Democratic candidates to the Chinese government to how to deal with accusations of racism. It stresses three main lines of assault: That China caused the virus ‘by covering it up,’ that Democrats are ‘soft on China,’ and that Republicans will ‘push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.’
“The document urges candidates to stay relentlessly on message against the country when responding to any questions about the virus. When asked whether the spread of the coronavirus is Trump’s fault, candidates are advised to respond by pivoting to China. ‘Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China,’ the memo states.” The deets: https://politi.co/2VZoNY9.
Related read: “Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking Senate With Him,” via NYT’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: https://nyti.ms/3cSbZtn.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR -- Why are African American and Latino patients disproportionately at risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19? POLITICO national political reporter Laura Barrón-López will host a virtual interview on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and NYC doctor Uché Blackstock about why the pandemic is hitting minority communities especially hard and what can be done to mitigate the impact. Register here: https://bit.ly/3bCBuP7.
Garrett Kral has started at EPA as a special adviser for oversight in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, according to his LinkedIn profile. Previously he was counsel for House Natural Resources Committee Republicans.
The House and Senate are out.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) holds a conference call briefing to discuss the "Trump administration failures to implement" the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”
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