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Wake Up To Politics - March 9, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Monday, March 9, 2020. 1 day until the next Democratic primaries. 239 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

White House, lawmakers confronts coronavirus as epidemic draws near

At least 545 people have now been treated for coronavirus in the United States, with the cases spread across 34 states and Washington, D.C., according to a New York Times database. At least 22 patients have succumbed to the virus in the U.S.

As the number of cases increases — domestically and around the globe — the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus has come under growing scrutiny.

"For six weeks behind the scenes, and now increasingly in public, [President Donald] Trump has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear," Politico reported on Saturday.

"Members of Congress have grilled top officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield over the government’s biggest mistake: failing to secure enough testing to head off a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. But many current and former Trump administration officials say the true management failure was Trump’s."

Trump has repeatedly downplayed coronavirus in recent days — referring to the outcry as nothing more than a Democratic "hoax," saying he has a "hunch" that the 3.4% mortality rate is a "false number," and predicting that the number of cases in the U.S. is "going very substantially down" despite warnings to the contrary from health officials — even as the disease threatens to upend the U.S. economy and possibly his hopes of re-election along with it.

Trump once again assigned blame on Democrats and the news media this morning, tweeting: "The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant."

However, in the past 24 hours, health officials have begun to move beyond the more optimistic statements from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. New guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday urged travelers to "defer all cruise ship travel worldwide," while Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that elderly Americans and people with an "underlying condition" should avoid "large crowds" and "long trips."

According to the Associated Press, the White House initially "overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus."

Meanwhile, coronavirus has also arrived on the doorstep of Capitol Hill, as cases were confirmed in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Three attendees of the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in D.C. have now tested positive, as has one attendee of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in National Harbor, Maryland, last week.

At least two lawmakers, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), have self-quarantined themselves after discovering that they interacted with the infected CPAC attendee. President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other administration officials also attended the annual conservative gathering, but did not interact with the infected individual, according to the White House.

Members of Congress are becoming "increasingly anxious about coronavirus," according to NBC News; lawmakers plan to raise concerns with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a meeting today, as some quietly urge a two-week recess.  

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged the Trump administration in a joint statement on Sunday to respond to the coronavirus with steps such as instating paid sick leave for those impacted by the disease and enabling free and widespread testing.

Presidential candidates are also wrestling with how to respond to coronavirus; for now, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both said Sunday that they will continue holding campaign events, even as other large gatherings such as SXSW in Austin are called off. "We will not endanger the health of anybody in this country," Sanders promised in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

President Trump also told reporters Saturday that he was "not concerned at all" about coronavirus drawing nearer to the White House and that he would move forward with holding "tremendous rallies." However, according to the Washington Post, "changes to Trump’s travel schedule" are being "contemplated," amid the CDC's warning that elderly Americans should reconsider travel.

Trump, Biden, and Sanders — aged 73, 77, and 78, respectively — are all in the age demographic at "higher risk of getting very sick" from coronavirus, according to the CDC.

As the new week starts, the spread of the outbreak shows no signs of slowing, nor does its impact on the economy. European stocks plunged this morning as a new oil war led to plummeting prices; according to future markets, the downturn is expected to be seen on Wall Street as well when American stock exchanges open.

Booker, Harris back Biden on eve of new primaries

Last Monday, on the day before his Super Tuesday romp, Joe Biden's presidential campaign was lifted by the same-day endorsements of ex-rivals Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O'Rourke at a pair of unity events in Texas.

That pattern is expected to repeat itself today, as Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — also onetime contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod — join forces to appear with Biden at a rally in Detroit, Michigan, the night before voters in the crucial primary state head to the polls.

"@JoeBiden won't only win - he'll show there's more that unites us than divides us. He'll restore honor to the Oval Office and tackle our most pressing challenges," Booker said in a tweet this morning, becoming Biden's latest high-profile endorser. Harris announced her support in a video message on Sunday, calling Biden "a man who has lived his life with great dignity" and "a public servant who has always worked for the best of who we are as a nation."

The joint appearance with the two highest-polling African-American candidates to seek the White House this year could boost Biden as he competes with Bernie Sanders for black voters in Michigan.

To that end, Sanders announced an endorsement of his own on Sunday: the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime civil rights leader. "A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path," Jackson said in a statement. "The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That's why I choose to endorse him today."

Sanders has struggled to win over black voters thus far, a dynamic that partially led to his ten Super Tuesday defeats and has set up Michigan as a crucial battleground. He canceled a day of events in Mississippi over the weekend, as polls showed him trailing Biden there, and campaigned in Michigan instead.

A Detroit Free Press poll released this morning showed Biden opening up a 24-point lead in Michigan, although Sanders famously overcame a polling deficit to defeat Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016. However, if Sanders can't pull off another upset win, the gloomy picture for the Vermont senator — he trails Biden by 16% nationally, according to a new CNN poll — will only continue to darken.

Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington are all slated to hold primaries or caucuses on Tuesday.


President Donald Trump will participate in a pair of fundraisers in Longwood, Florida.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a video teleconference briefing with governors on the coronavirus, participate in the Indiana University bicentennial medal ceremony presentation, lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting, and hold a press briefing with other members of the task force.

The Senate will continue consideration of S.2657, the American Energy Innovation Act.

The House will vote on six pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 2877 – To add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program
  2. Senate Amendment to H.R. 1365 – To make technical corrections to the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act
  3. H.Res. 754 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should continue to support the people of Nicaragua in their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and human rights, and use the tools under United States law to increase political and financial pressure on the government of Daniel Ortega, as amended
  4. H.Res. 410 – Encouraging reunions of divided Korean-American Families
  5. H.R. 2444 – Eastern European Security Act, as amended
  6. H.R. 1771 – Divided Families Reunification Act

The Supreme Court will release orders from their Friday conference.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will make campaign stops in Grand Rapids and Flint, Michigan, and attend a fundraiser and a Get Out the Vote event in Detroit, Michigan.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will hold a Get Out the Vote rally in St. Louis, Missouri, and participate in a coronavirus public health roundtable and a Fox News town hall in Detroit, Michigan.

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