4 min read

Wake Up To Politics - March 23, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Monday, March 23, 2020. 225 days until Election Day 2020. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Coronavirus stimulus talks falter in Senate

Senate Democrats blocked a $1.8 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill from advancing Sunday as both parties race to strike a deal aimed at addressing the economic impact of the outbreak.

The measure failed in a 47-47 vote, falling well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Although some Democrats had participated in the initial negotiations crafting the bill, members of the party uniformly voted "nay" on the legislation, which was put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before the two parties had reached a final deal.

In floor remarks on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) referred to the package as "a highly partisan bill, written exclusively by Republicans." Schumer's main objection was to a $500 billion fund that would have allowed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to unilaterally disburse emergency assistance to businesses of his choosing. Schumer called the provision a "large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight."

McConnell, meanwhile, blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for interceding in the Senate talks and causing a breakdown. "She's the Speaker of the House, not the Speaker of the Senate," McConnell said on the floor Sunday. "We were doing just fine until that intervention."

"The notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd," McConnell added. "The American people expect us to act tomorrow, and I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together."

Negotiations between the Trump administration and the two parties on Capitol Hill resumed almost immediately after the failed vote; Schumer and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, the president's point man on the legislation, held a meeting at 11:45 p.m. Eastern Time.

A deal has yet to emerge, although the Senate is expected to vote again after convening at 12 p.m. today.

According to the Washington Post, as it stands, the legislation "would seek to flood the economy with money in an effort to protect millions of jobs and businesses that appear to be on the brink"; provisions include "direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to children, "$350 billion toward small businesses to stem the tide of layoffs," and "billions more toward hospitals and the unemployment insurance system."

Lawmakers missed a series of self-imposed deadlines over the weekend as they sought to finalize a deal. The Senate vote — a procedural step that was hoped to be dispense with so a final roll call could take place today — was repeatedly delayed on Sunday. Even after falling through, the two parties could not agree on the timeline for a re-vote: McConnell set a new vote for 9:45 a.m., expressing hope that there would be a "change of hearts" after the stock markets open, but objections from Schumer pushed it past noon.

The timeline for senators was shortened on Sunday as the coronavirus outbreak reached their own chamber: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) became the first senator to announce he had tested positive for the virus. Two members of the House, Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT), had previously announced their diagnoses.

Paul missed the Sunday vote, as did four other Republican senators who were self-quarantining because of contact with him.  

As activity continued apace on Capitol Hill, the country mostly screeched to a halt due to coronavirus over the weekend, as businesses shuttered and states including New York and California issued "stay at home" orders restricting the movement of their residents.

According to Axios, President Donald Trump has begun "losing patience" with the nationwide social distancing ordered by public health officials, as its impact on the economy has worsened.

"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself," Trump tweeted in all-caps late Sunday night, signaling that he was considering a reversal from the economic shutdown. "At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go."

Although officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have said that many more weeks of social distancing may be required to fight the coronavirus, "there has been a growing sentiment" at the White House in recent days "that medical experts were allowed to set policy that has hurt the economy, and there has been a push to find ways to let people start returning to work," according to the New York Times.

Soon after the president's late-night tweet, the United States moved past Spain to become the country with the third-most cases of COVID-19; the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. has now reached 35,225, according to Johns Hopkins University. Only China and Italy have more coronavirus cases; the U.S. has now reported 471 deaths from the pandemic, the sixth-most in the world.


President Donald Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:30 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will then lead a video teleconference with governors at 2 p.m. and lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 4 p.m.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a press briefing at 5:30 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. to resume consideration of H.R.748, the legislative vehicle for the coronavirus stimulus bill.

The House will meet for a pro format session at 11:30 a.m. No business will be conducted.

The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m. and possibly opinions at 10 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on coronavirus and participate in a virtual fundraiser. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has no events scheduled.

*All times Eastern

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my new podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.