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Wake Up To Politics - April 29, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 188 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

U.S. coronavirus cases top 1 million

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States rose above 1 million Tuesday, a grim milestone that comes as some states have begun reopening their economy and easing restrictions put in place due to the virus.

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, there have been 1,012,583 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. — just shy of one-third of the global total (3,132,363). No other country has more than 250,000 confirmed cases.

"The only reason the U.S. has reported one million cases of CoronaVirus is that our Testing is sooo much better than any other country in the World," President Donald Trump tweeted late Tuesday night. "Other countries are way behind us in Testing, and therefore show far fewer cases!

The U.S. has conducted more tests (5.9 million, according to Worldometer) than any other country — but still lags behind its peers in testing per capita. The average member state of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — a group of developed, high-income countries — has conducted 23.1 coronavirus tests per 1,000 people, according to figures released by the body Tuesday. The U.S. has conducted 16.4 tests per 1,000 people.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. currently stands at 58,355 — more than the 58,318 Americans who died in the 19 years of the Vietnam War — even as CDC data suggests that the deaths from the pandemic are being significantly undercounted. (President Trump estimated last week that the final U.S. death toll from the virus would be between 50,000 and 60,000.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, warned this morning that states could cause an increase in deaths by lifting restrictions too early and lead to a rebound of the virus that would "get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago."

According to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released this morning, 65% of Americans say it is a "bad idea" to have people return to work, while 80% oppose restaurants allowing in-person dining and 85% oppose students returning to schools.

However, states spanning the political spectrum — from Colorado and Minnesota to Georgia and Mississippi — are taking steps to loosen their restrictions in the days ahead as stay-at-home orders begin to expire. According to NBC News, no state has yet seen 14 consecutive days of declining cases — the criteria recommended by the federal government before reopening.

Although President Trump criticized Georgia for beginning to reopen last week, he commended Texas' reopening of businesses on Tuesday ("Great job," the president tweeted), a continuation of the mixed signals he has offered since the outbreak began. Trump also hosted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Oval Office on Tuesday; DeSantis is expected to announce his plan to reopen the state today, after Trump showered him with praise in comments to reporters after the meeting.

More coronavirus news

U.S. economy slumped in first quarter: "U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the economy, fell at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter of the year, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That is the first decline since 2014, and the worst quarterly contraction since the country was in a deep recession more than a decade ago."

"Even so, most of the quarter came before the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread shutdowns and layoffs. Economists expect figures from the current quarter to show G.D.P. contracting at an annual rate of 30 percent or more." (New York Times)

--- The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 50% of Americans said they or someone in their household has lost hours or a job because of the coronavirus.  

Trump orders meat-processing plants to stay open: "President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday paving the way for meat-processing plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, as hundreds of workers have fallen ill and concerns mount about food-supply shortages."

"The move is expected to relieve pressure on meatpackers and farmers, who have struggled with food-supply upheavals following pressure from local and state officials to close plants. It is likely to draw fire from unions and worker advocates, who have said such closures are a necessary step to stem the virus’s spread through communities."

"The president invoked the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law, to keep the facilities open, designating the plants as critical infrastructure under the law. The administration is also planning to take steps to improve safety for employees at the facilities, administration officials said." (Wall Street Journal)

House drops plan to return next week: "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday announced that lawmakers won’t return to Washington next week, abruptly reversing course after widespread backlash from members in both parties who warned the move would be unsafe."

"The sudden change of course comes one day after Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi had informed members on Monday that the House would come back on May 4, the same day the Senate is slated to return."

. . . "Hoyer said he and Pelosi made the decision to halt plans to return after consulting Monday evening with the Capitol’s attending physician, who warned that lawmakers could be at risk given the still-rising number of coronavirus cases in the Washington, D.C. area. Nearly 4,000 people have tested positive in D.C., as of Monday, plus thousands more in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs." (Politico)

--- The Senate is still planning to return to Washington on Monday. According to NBC News, the chamber plans to focus on confirming more judicial nominations.

Amash forms presidential exploratory committee

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican-turned-independent congressman, announced Tuesday that he had launched an exploratory committee to consider running for president as a Libertarian.

"We’re ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our Constitution and bring people together," Amash wrote on Twitter. "I’m excited and honored to be taking these first steps toward serving Americans of every background as president."

Amash was first elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave. He became the first Republican lawmaker to call for President Trump's impeachment in May 2019; less than two months later, he left the party and became an independent.

As a staunch conservative as well as a Trump critic, it is unclear how Amash might impact the 2020 race if he moves forward with a third-party bid. A Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this month found him drawing only 1% support nationally, although any significant third-party support in a close race (especially in his home state of Michigan, a key battleground) could be significant. Many Democrats blame third-party candidates, including the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein, for President Trump's election in 2016.

The Libertarian Party convention is currently scheduled for May, although it may be postponed due to the coronavirus. Attorney and author Jacob Hornberger won the bulk of the party's non-binding primaries, followed by perennial candidate Vermin Supreme, who is known for wearing a boot as a hat. Jim Gray, the 2012 Libertarian vice presidential nominee, also entered the race for the party's nod earlier this month after Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island governor and senator, dropped out.

"If there's one person who can waltz into the LP convention at the last minute and sweep up the presidential nomination, it's Justin Amash," longtime Libertarian political strategist John Vaught LeBaume, a top aide to Johnson's 2016 bid, told Wake Up To Politics. "He's probably the only figure who has the 'rock star' status and the libertarian credibility."

Other 2020 headlines:

  • "Democrats react to Biden assault allegation with pleas for explanation — or with silence" (Washington Post)
  • "Hillary Clinton endorses Joe Biden" (Axios)
  • "Andrew Yang sues over New York’s shutdown of presidential primary" (Politico)
  • "Sanders' campaign alumni now backing Biden with a Super PAC" (Reuters)
  • "Jesse Ventura says he's 'testing the waters' for Green Party bid for president" (The Hill)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will participate in a phone call with food and agriculture industry leaders at 10 a.m., meet with Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) at 11 a.m., have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:30 p.m., and participate in a roundtable with industry executives on plans for reopening America at 4 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will join President Trump for his 10 a.m. phone call and 4 p.m. roundtable. He will also participate in a conference call with governors and meat industry executives at 1 p.m. and lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will participate in a virtual fundraiser.

*All times Eastern

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