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Wake Up To Politics - March 26, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, March 26, 2020. 222 days until Election Day 2020. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Re-upping this request: The next episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast will be focused on the impact of coronavirus on American politics — and we want to include your thoughts and questions. Send me a voice memo (up to 2 minutes) explaining how you’ve noticed the pandemic affecting politics, asking any questions you have about its impact, or sharing any fears about how the virus will reshape life and politics through the November elections. Please include your name and where you're from, and your thoughts could be included in the next podcast episode. Thanks again!

--- Here is a guide to same programs and apps you can use to record a voice memo if you're looking for help.

Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus as jobless claims soar

The Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion emergency stimulus package late Wednesday night, aiming to offer relief to Americans amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The sweeping legislation would send direct $1,200 checks to more than 150 million American households, offer $500 billion in bailouts for businesses (including airline companies) impacted by the crisis, issue $350 billion in loans to small businesses, expand unemployment benefits by $250 billion, provide $150 billion in direct aid to states and localities, and inject $130 billion into the nation's hospitals. (Calculate how much you could receive in direct payments from the bill.)

It is the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history. In a significant show of bipartisanship for a bill of such scope — and which was speedily drafted just hours before, after marathon negotiations — the measure was approved by the Senate without objection, 96-0. The absent senators were self-quarantining, diagnosed with COVID-19, or otherwise ill.

"This is a proud moment for the United States Senate and for the country," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters after the vote. "We're going to win this battle in the very near future."

The House is expected to vote on the legislation Friday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) endorsed the measure in a statement early this morning, promising it would receive "strong bipartisan support" in the lower chamber. Leaders are hoping to approve the bill by voice vote, which would allow the measure to pass without requiring the entire House to show up at a time when the Capitol is plagued by fears of spreading the coronavirus. However, one lawmaker could force a recorded vote, compelling their colleagues to return to Washington; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told CNN she is "open" to such a move, referring to the bill as too favorable to corporations.  

The economic peril caused by the coronavirus was underlined this morning as the Labor Department announced that a record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. In the half-century since the federal government has recorded such figures, the most jobless claims ever filed in one week was previously 695,000 in October 1982. The announcement marked the end to a nine-year streak of American job growth, as companies in almost every industry were forced to shutter and lay off workers as COVID-19 spread throughout the nation.

"We may well be in a recession," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged in an interview this morning on NBC's "Today" show.

Wednesday was also the deadliest day of the coronavirus outbreak in America thus far, as the U.S. death toll from the virus exceeded 1,000. As of 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, there are 69,197 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 1,046 Americans have died from the virus; these figures marked the largest one-day increases yet.

Biden appeals to young voters amid pandemic

Former Vice President Joe Biden is on track to sew up the Democratic presidential nomination, but there is one demographic the 77-year-old candidate has consistently struggled to attract: young voters.

Biden has consistently trailed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in voters under 45 (especially those in their teens and twenties) throughout the primary cycle, sparking fears among some Democrats that he will not be able to push the younger generation to the polls in a November face-off with President Donald Trump.

As America continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic, the ex-vice president sought to extend an olive branch to young voters on Wednesday, holding a virtual press conference and a virtual "happy hour" aimed at millennials and members of Generation Z.

"Young Americans have had a rough run of it lately," former Vice President Joe Biden declared in the press conference, which was held on the teleconferencing app Zoom and recorded from the sleek television studio speedily constructed in his basement. "The millennials, many of whom now are in the prime of their careers, came of age at a time defined by 9/11, marked by wars, and then they had some of the hardest long-standing impacts of the 2008 financial collapse, and now, like all of us, they're staring down the barrel of another major economic crisis, the second in their young adult lives."

Pressed by Wake Up To Politics in the virtual press conference to name specific platform changes he was making to reach out to younger voters, Biden offered an eight-minute answer detailing his policies aimed at young Americans. "This is about making sure that your generation doesn't end up behind the eight-ball," the former vice president said. (Watch, starting at about 17:10)

Biden committed to canceling $10,000 of student loan debt for every American, doubling funding for the Pell Grant college subsidy program, strengthening benefits offered by Obamacare, creating new jobs with "my Green Deal," and improving teacher pay and the quality of public education.  "We don't want you settled the way the generation after 9/11 and after the economic downturn in 2008 got saddled," he told Wake Up To Politics.

However, as Biden pivots to the general election and attempts to shore up support among Sanders' base, the progressive Vermont senator has yet to leave the primary race. According to Politico, Sanders' campaign is giving indications that he could remain in the race through June; the New York Times reported earlier this week that Sanders plans to participate in the next debate. ("We've had enough debates," Biden said in his virtual press conference Wednesday.)

The Democratic primary campaign has mostly receded from focus as America has grappled with the coronavirus; Biden and Sanders have struggled to grab attention in recent days, holding a series of virtual events to compensate for their inability to put on rallies. A number of states have canceled their upcoming primaries altogether; as many as 10 states may now hold primaries on June 2, a date that would traditionally be late on the primary calendar but could now offer the biggest delegate haul since Super Tuesday.


President Donald Trump will participate in a G20 Leaders' video teleconference at 8 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a video teleconference with governors on COVID-19 at 12 p.m. and lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.

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

The Senate is on recess until April 20.

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

The Supreme Court has canceled its oral arguments for March.

*All times Eastern

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