POLITICO Playbook: How a Covid deal could come together

POLITICO Playbook: How a Covid deal could come together

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POLITICAL DONATIONS are a bit like financial investments. Sometimes they’re a sign of confidence, sometimes they indicate desperation, and sometimes they’re a hedge.

GET A LOAD OF THIS: The SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND — the Senate GOP super PAC — raised $37.3 MILLION in August. For a point of comparison: They raised $3 million in August 2018 — that’s a 12x increase. They have $126 MILLION on hand, which is more than 3x what they had on hand at this point in 2018 ($40.5 million).

OF COURSE, the battle for the Senate is far more competitive this time around. But when you compare this level of enthusiasm with the TRUMP fundraising, you’ll find a bit of a disconnect. ALEX ISENSTADT: “Cash-strapped Trump campaign awaits a bailout from big donors”

SCOOP: JAIME HARRISON raised another $1 million-plus Thursday — his second consecutive day raising north of a million dollars after a Quinnipiac poll had the Democratic challenger tied with Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.). The DSCC is getting involved in the race.

NEW … DAVE WASSERMAN at the COOK POLITICAL REPORT will change the rating of three House seats: Colorado-3 is going from likely Republican to lean Republican. This is the GOP-held seat where Republicans nominated QAnon-curious LAUREN BOEBERT. … Rep. JARED GOLDEN’S (D-Maine) seat is going from toss-up to lean Democrat. … Virginia-5 — where GOP Rep. DENVER RIGGLEMAN lost the nomination — is going from lean Republican to toss-up.

ON COVID RELIEF … AS YOU’VE READ HERE many times, we’ve been quite bearish on the prospects of a Covid relief deal before the November election — and for good reason, as the two sides have made zero progress in the last several months.

BUT IF YOU HEAR BOTH SIDES TALK BEHIND THE SCENES, the White House and Democrats want to find their way back to the negotiating table, but neither side knows how to do it. When you’re this deep into finger pointing, it’s tough to concede that you want back in. (Speaker NANCY PELOSI, you call us, we’ll three-way call chief of staff MARK MEADOWS and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN. )

WE MADE A QUICK LAP AROUND WITH OUR SOURCES Thursday night, and the contours of what could become a deal became a bit clearer. All sides say these represent a possible deal — should they ever get back to the table.

— THE BIG, GIGANTIC STICKING POINT has been state and local money. DEMOCRATS are at $900 billion over two years, and REPUBLICANS are at something like $100 billion, and $100 billion-ish in repurposed money over two years.

— SO, LET’S SAY DEMOCRATS cut their ask to one year — so that would be $450 billion. And REPUBLICANS went up to $300 billion. Both of those do not include the $150 billion that would be repurposed. So the total would be $450 billion — $300 billion in new money, plus the $150 billion repurposed. DEMOCRATS could explain this by saying they got $450 billion over one year, and will ask for more if JOE BIDEN is elected. (This construct isn’t being pulled out of thin air.)

NOW WE’RE GETTING CLOSE …

— THERE ARE OTHER big issues. Dems want $300 billion for schools, and Republicans were at $105 billion. This is immediate money. The two sides were relatively close on other issues when the talks broke down earlier this summer.

— IF THEY EVER GET BACK TO THE TABLE, this bill could be loaded up like a Christmas tree. Everyone will want their priorities on, and the leadership and the White House will have to manage that process and the expectations around it.

SO, WHO CALLS FIRST? … PELOSI is the only leader to have passed something. MEADOWS isn’t a PELOSI fav — but, remember, a deal is not likely to come together without him. Could MNUCHIN be the peacemaker? Maybe he can get everyone to the table — he and PELOSI have been talking — but the distrust for the Treasury secretary is high among Republicans, so MEADOWS needs to be in the room, the White House says.

THIS IS NEW … THERE IS NOW SOME RISK around the corner for the House Democratic leadership.

— DISCHARGE PETITION ALERT … REP. JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER (R-Wash.) filed a petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program until the end of the year. The petition — called a discharge petition — is a tool of the House minority to force a vote on a bill that’s been languishing in committee. It will be up for signatures Sept. 25, and if every Republican signs, only 20 Democrats need to sign it to force a vote. IF REPUBLICANS SUCCEED, this will be a defeat for House Democratic leadership — it temporarily hands over the floor to Republicans.

THIS COULD BE AN ADDED INCENTIVE FOR PELOSI to get a deal.

BTW: LEADERS ARE LIKELY TO RELEASE a stopgap spending bill today that would avert a Sept. 30 shutdown.

Good Friday morning.

SPOTTED: Chris LaCivita, head of the new anti-Biden Preserve America Super PAC, and Linda McMahon, who runs Trump’s America First Super PAC, dining at Cafe Milano on Thursday evening.

INTERESTING NUGGET, via PETER BAKER’S News Analysis on the front page of today’s NYT: “Not counting Maryland, where Air Force One is based, or states where he has properties (New York, New Jersey, Florida and Virginia), Mr. Trump has spent about four times as many days visiting states that supported him in 2016 as he has in those that voted against him, according to data compiled by Factba.se, a service that tracks the president’s statements and actions.”

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — “‘Talk about losers’: The top moments from CNN’s kid-gloves town hall with Biden,” by Christopher Cadelago: “For the second time this week, a presidential candidate fielded questions from voters in a town hall setting. But if ABC’s event with President Donald Trump was an icy grilling, CNN’s drive-in conversation with Joe Biden Thursday was more like an affable reunion of old acquaintances.

“‘Chief, didn’t I meet you when you were chief?’ Biden said through a half-smile, pointing at the man preparing to ask him a question. Bill Barrett, a retired police chief who is in his fifth term on city council, wanted to know how Biden will address growing violence in cities and the lack of respect for police and the military. Barrett confirmed that, yes, they’d met when he was chief. And so it went with several other questioners and Biden during a 75-minute homecoming close by to where the candidate spent his youth.

“Trump had few such comfortable moments in his brutal town hall: For his first time as president, regular people got the chance to call him out on his boasting and exaggerations. Biden, by comparison, got a ‘total pass,’ the Trump campaign complained afterward, in a typical lashing of the media. The Democratic nominee made the most of the friendly confines, relaying feel-your-pain anecdotes in mostly grammatical syntax and, until the last half-hour, with high-energy.”

WHAT PHILADELPHIA is waking up to … the INQUIRER FRONT PAGE: “Biden Contrasts Scranton, Wall Street”

AND ON THE OTHER SIDE — “Trump heats up culture war in appeal to Wisconsin voters,” by AP’s Zeke Miller in Mosinee, Wis.: “President Donald Trump stepped up his rhetoric Thursday on cultural issues, aiming to boost enthusiasm among rural Wisconsin voters as he tries to repeat his path to victory four years ago.

“Making his fifth visit to the pivotal battleground state this year, Trump views success in the state’s less-populated counties as critical to another term. He held a rally Thursday evening in Mosinee, in central Wisconsin, an area of the state that shifted dramatically toward Republicans in 2016, enabling Trump to overcome even greater deficits in urban and suburban parts of the state.

“Trump has increasingly used his public appearances to elevate cultural issues important to his generally whiter and older base, as he hinges his campaign on turning out his core supporters rather than focusing on winning over a narrow slice of undecided voters. In Mosinee, he called for a statute to ban burning the American flag in protest — a freedom protected by the Supreme Court — and criticized sports players and leagues for allowing demonstrations against racial inequality.”

THE NEW YORKER’S SUSAN GLASSER: “‘It Was All About the Election’: The Ex-White House Aide Olivia Troye on Trump’s Narcissistic Mishandling of COVID-19”: “When I spoke with Olivia Troye on Thursday afternoon, she sounded more than a little scared. She was about to go public with a scorching video, in which she would denounce President Donald Trump and his stewardship of the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Troye, who served as Vice-President Mike Pence’s adviser for homeland security until late July, has witnessed the Administration’s response to the crisis, as Pence’s top aide on the White House coronavirus task force.

“She had seen Trump rant in private about Fox News coverage as his public-health advisers desperately tried to get him to focus on a disease that has now killed some two hundred thousand Americans. She had decided that Trump was lying to the American public about the disease, and that ‘words matter, especially when you’re the President of the United States,’ and that it was time to speak out. She was nervous and scared and worried for her family and her career. But she plunged ahead anyway.

“I asked about her firsthand observation of the President during the crisis. She said that Trump was ‘disruptive.’ That he could not ‘focus.’ That he was consumed by himself and his prospects in November. ‘For him, it was all about the election,’ Troye told me. ‘He just can’t seem to care about anyone else besides himself.’” New Yorker

USPS IN THE CROSSHAIRS — “Federal judge temporarily blocks USPS operational changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns, election,” by WaPo’s Elise Viebeck and Jacob Bogage: “A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service that have been blamed for a slowdown in mail delivery, saying President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are ‘involved in a politically motivated attack’ on the agency that could disrupt the 2020 election.

“Stanley A. Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, said policies put in place under DeJoy ‘likely will slow down delivery of ballots’ this fall, creating a ‘substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.’” WaPo

VACCINE UPDATE — “Moderna and Pfizer Reveal Secret Blueprints for Coronavirus Vaccine Trials,” by NYT’s Denise Grady and Katie Thomas: “Two drug companies that are leading the race to develop coronavirus vaccines bowed to public pressure on Thursday, abandoning their traditional secrecy and releasing comprehensive road maps of how they are evaluating their vaccines.

“The companies, Moderna and Pfizer, revealed details about how participants are being selected and monitored, the conditions under which the trials could be stopped early if there were problems, and the evidence researchers will use to determine whether people who got the vaccines were protected from Covid-19. Moderna’s study will involve 30,000 participants, and Pfizer’s 44,000.

“Companies typically share these documents after their studies are complete. The disclosures while the trials are still underway, a rare move, are aimed at addressing growing suspicion among Americans that President Trump’s drive to produce a vaccine before the election on Nov. 3 could result in a product that was unsafe.” NYT

BIDEN’S LATEST HEADACHE — “Biden’s weakness with Black and Latino men creates an opening for Trump,” by Laura Barrón-López, Marc Caputo and Elena Schneider: “It was a huddle to marshal the faithful, featuring dozens of Black luminaries, from hip hop mogul Jay-Z to radio personality Charlamagne tha God to civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris presided over the virtual meeting, which grappled with a nagging question for Joe Biden’s campaign: How to woo more Black men?

“Last week’s call was the second in as many weeks focusing on Biden’s appeals to Black male voters. The mood, Crump said, was upbeat. But callers were frank about their concerns, urging Biden to deliver a positive message, so ‘it’s not just about anti-Trump but what we’re going to do on our side.’ ‘We know Black women are the backbone of the party,’ said one participant, who asked not to be identified. ‘But Black men are going to have to overperform.’

“But right now, they’re underperforming. And, according to a spate of recent polling, so are Latino men, a subject Harris tackled recently in Zoom meetings with Hispanic influencers. Black and Latino men still need to be convinced that Biden represents their interests, Crump said. Black men want to hear more about opportunities to build businesses and fixes for the economy, in addition to talk about criminal justice and policing reform.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president receives his intel briefing at noon in the Oval Office. He will leave the White House at 3:45 p.m. to travel to Bemidji, Minn. The president will arrive at the Bemidji Regional Airport at 5:55 p.m CDT and give a campaign speech at 6 p.m. The president will depart at 7:25 p.m. and return to Washington. He will arrive at the White House at 11:15 p.m.

ON THE TRAIL — BIDEN will travel to Duluth, Minn. He will tour a union training center and deliver remarks. … Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) will speak at the CBC PAC’s “Turn Up and Turn Out the Vote Virtual Bus Tour.”

TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week” with Bob Costa: Bob Woodward, who will share previously unreleased audio of Trump; Margaret Brennan; and Alexi McCammond.

SUNDAY SO FAR …

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: President Donald Trump … Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Bill Gates … Tom Frieden. Panel: Karl Rove, Catherine Lucey and Mo Elleithee.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Bob Woodward. Panel: Peter Alexander, Lanhee Chen and María Teresa Kumar.

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Rachel Scott and Julie Pace.

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: National security adviser Robert O’Brien … Adam Schechter … Scott Gottlieb … Jeh Johnson … new battleground tracker.

  • Sinclair

    “America This Week with Eric Bolling”: Larry Kudlow … Sarah Huckabee Sanders … Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) … Michael Knowles … Jack Brewer … Ed Norris.

MARIANNE LEVINE and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “‘Everyone’s got leverage’: Dreading a 50-50 Senate split”: “An evenly split Senate would make life grueling for whoever is president next year. Any one senator could determine the fate of critical nominations or key pieces of the party’s legislative agenda. And in an era of already deep polarization, it could lead to even worse gridlock, as inconceivable as that sounds.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “More than 35,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in Florida primary,” by Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout

HMM — “C.D.C. Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists’ Objections,” by NYT’s Apoorva Mandavilli: “A heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections, according to several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents obtained by The New York Times.

“The guidance said it was not necessary to test people without symptoms of Covid-19 even if they had been exposed to the virus. It came at a time when public health experts were pushing for more testing rather than less, and administration officials told The Times that the document was a C.D.C. product and had been revised with input from the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield.

“But officials told The Times this week that the Department of Health and Human Services did the rewriting and then ‘dropped’ it into the C.D.C.’s public website, flouting the agency’s strict scientific review process.” NYT

ACROSS THE POND … BBC: “WHO warns Europe over ‘very serious’ Covid surge”: “Speaking in Copenhagen on Thursday, [WHO regional director Hans] Kluge said 300,000 new infections were reported across Europe last week alone and weekly cases had exceeded those reported during the first peak in March. ‘Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,’ he told reporters. Mr Kluge said the figures ‘should serve as a wake-up call for all of us’.”

BUSINESS BURST — “Oracle, Walmart Aim for Big Stakes in TikTok,” by WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer, Michael C. Bender and Andrew Restuccia: “Backers of a proposed new group to take over Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok are working to create an ownership structure that would give U.S. interests a majority stake, in an effort to ease the Trump administration’s security concerns.

“Under the latest plan for TikTok, Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. could together own a significant stake, according to people familiar with the situation. That move, if combined with existing American investors, could put majority ownership in U.S. hands, the people said. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon is expected to get a board seat if the deal goes through, said some of the people familiar with the matter. As part of the current plan, TikTok would file for a U.S. initial public offering in about a year, said one of these people.

“Walmart, which previously looked to join with Microsoft Corp. on a TikTok deal, has been looking to ramp up its online presence to generate new revenue streams.” WSJ

CLICKER — “Pete Souza Told Us the Stories Behind His Most Iconic Barack Obama Photos,” by Esquire’s Brady Langmann

— WSJ: “2021 Best Colleges in America: Harvard Leads the University Rankings”

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Safiya Ghori-Ahmad, South Asia director at McLarty Associates. A trend she thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to the fact that most of the world’s consumers are outside of the U.S., and American businesses — particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises — are unable to compete for them because the world is largely shut off to Americans due to Covid restrictions. As of this month, very few countries are allowing Americans in without restriction, while China and the EU allow citizens to travel freely within each other’s countries. This means the world is doing business without us, and American businesses are losing out.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: HUD Secretary Ben Carson is 69 … Ric Grenell is 54 … Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) is 44 … Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) is 36 … Corey Lewandowski is 47 … WaPo’s Griff Witte, Darryl Fears and Desmond Butler … Sara Haines … Jeff Sadosky, partner at Forbes Tate Partners … Liz Natonski … Trevor Houser, partner at Rhodium Group, is 4-0 (h/t Hannah Hess) … Katrina Bishop … Chris Lucas of BNYMellon’s D.C. office (h/t wife Jane) … Nicole Duran … Christina Hartman (h/t Mark Meier) … Eric Terrell … Joan Walsh, producer of Peacock’s “The Sit In,” writer for The Nation and a CNN political contributor … Phil Lago … Tina Stoll, president of Campaign Finance Consultants (h/t Jon Haber) … Jackie Calmes, White House editor of L.A. Times’ D.C. bureau … Luis Navarro … Gilberto Ocañas … Karl Struble … Cyndi Pederson … Monica Mills … Cathy Jury … Kristen Crowell (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) …

… Jess Morales Rocketto … Rachel Irwin, Senate Majority PAC comms director (h/t Matt Corridoni) … Dayna Cade … Daniel Burnett, assistant director of comms for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is 32 … Laura Plack … Joseph Costello … Erin Buechel Wieczorek, director of legislative affairs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is 42 (h/t Scott McConnell) … Adam Keiper (h/t Alice Lloyd) … Monica Pampell … former Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), now executive director of the Council for a Livable World (h/t Ben Chang) … Erin Madigan White … Isabelle Taylor Kenyon … POLITICO’s Ian Bent … Mark Walsh … Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble … Kacy Hutchison … Chuck Supple … Will Tienken … Edelman’s Andrew Church … The Guardian’s Chris Taylor … Ben Dye … Scott MacFarlane … Angela Flood, principal at Cove Strategies … Joe Davis … Devika Koppikar



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