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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Trump signs coronavirus relief bill

President Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill into law on Friday, hoping to slow the negative effect the pandemic is having on the economy. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says the $2 trillion bill would expand unemployment insurance, provide direct payments to most Americans and would grant upwards of hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to corporations, hospitals and state and local governments. The process for passing this bill in the House saw a bit of drama Friday morning, after GOP Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky wanted a recorded vote rather than a voice vote, which would require at least 216 members to be present on the floor. This drew the ire of Mr. Trump, who sent out three tweets Friday morning disparaging the lawmaker. "Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can't stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous... & costly," Mr. Trump tweeted.

At first, this option could've proven to be difficult as a majority were still scrambling to return to D.C. during their scheduled recess, after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told members their presence may be needed. In addition, more than 25 House members were at home in quarantine, and three have tested positive for COVID-19, with Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania being the latest ones. However there was not enough of a presence to support Massie's request for a recorded vote, and the bill moved on to a voice vote. Massie told CBS News digital journalist Julia Boccagno on Capitol Hill that House leaders were trying to "cover up" the votes, and "don't want to be on record of making the biggest mistake in history."  He added, "I came here this week to make sure our republic doesn't die in an empty chamber by unanimous consent. These people need to do their jobs. If they're telling people to drive a truck, if they're telling people to bag groceries and grow their food, then by golly they can be in there and they can vote."

Massie's Republican primary challenger, Todd McMurtry, immediately went on the offense on Friday, and launched a "Massie Mistakes" website that highlights 100 "misguided policy positions." "People's livelihoods are at stake while he's playing political games. His top priority is to make himself the purest Libertarian politician in the House while failing to deliver results for Kentuckians," he tweeted Friday morning. 

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

On  livestream Friday morning, Biden congratulated Mr. Trump for invoking the Defense Protection Act (DPA) as he as ordered GM to start making much needed ventilators, CBS News 2020 campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Biden said the White House should not be worried about producing too many ventilators because during World War II, there was no concern of "having too many landing craft to liberate Europe." (The DPA was first used in 1950 after WWII). The former vice president also seemed to want to take some credit for apparently pushing the president in this direction, saying Mr. Trump "finally" used the act after Biden and others "recommended" it. "We are going to see if the administration can manage—which is difficult I admit," Biden added. Biden was joined on the livestream by Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus and a former medical professional, along with other emergency responders. Biden said the DPA should now be used to make other personal protection equipment and that there should be a focus on mental and emotional health for first responders during the COVID response, too. On a sad note, the family of Larry Rasky, Biden's longtime adviser, told the Boston Globe his death on March 21 was due to coronavirus.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

Mr. Trump's 2020 campaign is out with an online advertisement touting the administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports. The campaign spot is digital only at this point, according to a campaign spokesperson. Entitled "Hope," the 60-second video debuted Thursday night on "Women for Trump" livestream, featuring campaign adviser and Mr. Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, national campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and national political director Chris Carr. The campaign advertisement features a clip montage of cable news broadcasts and political leaders praising the president, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom. Mr. Trump and his 2020 campaign team have frequently accused Democratic rivals of politicizing the coronavirus response. "Nancy Pelosi is shamelessly using this moment as a political opportunity to try and pass her unpopular, leftist, liberal agenda and Americans don't want this agenda. Rather they need our help, and they need our help now," Chris Carr said during the "Women for Trump" livestream. 

McEnany called out Biden for his suggestion that future congressional aid packages incorporate parts of his environmental plan to "generate economic ground." "For him to come out and say, well perhaps we can shove the Green New Deal into a future relief package? That is shameful," McEnany said. "That's not what America needs right now. We need to come together, and I'm proud that President Trump is leading." During the video stream, the Trump campaign also announced it recruited 50,000 new volunteers during its "National Day of Action" digital organizing event last week, churning out 1.5 million voter outreach calls on Saturday alone. 

LIFE AFTER 2020

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the philanthropy for billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, joined with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Johns Hopkins University on Friday to announce a joint effort to fund research into potential therapeutic uses of COVID-19 plasma.  According to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry, the effort will be headed by Dr. Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. According to researchers, the hope to begin "collecting, isolating, and processing blood plasma form COVID-19 survivors." Using their blood to then "treat critically ill COVID-19 patients and boost the immune systems of health care providers and first respondents."  There are currently no drugs or vaccines capable of treating COVID-19. "As scientists work to develop a vaccine, plasma treatment has the potential to save many lives – including the lives of doctors and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic." Bloomberg said. "I want to thank Governor Hogan, Dr. Casadevall, and Johns Hopkins University for their leadership and partnership, which will help ensure we can study and explore potential treatments as quickly as possible."

Bloomberg Philanthropies held its second virtual COVID-19 Local Response Initiative on Friday and was joined by former President Clinton. "We can argue until the cows come home about what should've been done starting in January, but we can do that later," Mr. Clinton. "Now we have to focus on where we are and where we want to go. And you, as mayors, more than anybody else, can influence people to avoid getting or transmitting COVID-19."

ELIZABETH WARREN

CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports that Elizabeth Warren on Friday launched a fundraising effort tied to her 2024 senate reelection campaign that she said "will also support other Democratic candidates who share our vision, mobilize people to support those candidates and our ideas, and continue to build the grassroots movement that you've started." 

In a Medium post, Warren wrote she was announcing Warren Democrats, "a movement for everybody who believes in the power of bold, inclusive reform to root out corruption in government and put power in the hands of the people." Warren Democrats, Inc. has been Warren's principal Senate campaign committee since she first campaigned in 2011.  

The immediate job of Warren Democrats, she wrote, is to "ensure we put people first in solving the coronavirus outbreak and the economic crisis in the short term —  and rebuilding our economy in the long term."

As the year goes on, she wrote, the group will work to elect Democrats in Congress and at the state level.

Warren's campaign's tech team on Friday announced it has open-sourced several of the digital tools they designed or modified, meaning that they have made the source code for those programs publicly available to be freely used and altered. "Our hope is that other Democratic candidates and progressive causes will use the ideas and code we developed to run stronger campaigns and help Democrats win," a Medium post from the team reads. Hudak says the software includes a texting platform developed by progressive policy advocacy group MoveOn that the Warren team modified, a polling location look-up, a data transfer app and an app for precinct captains to report caucus results. The team also released the code for Switchboard, an organizing program it developed to connect potential volunteers with local volunteer leads.

KEEP IN TOUCH…

Gone are the days of the 25+ candidates in the presidential race, but their email lists to supporters remain, and some former candidates are using those lists to keep past supporters informed in the age of the coronavirus. This week, Pete Buttigieg, who amassed millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of donors during his presidential campaign, sent out a message to his supporters and those who once signed up to receive emails from Eric Swalwell's campaign reminding them one of their biggest obligations in these uncertain times is to stay home. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the email also included additional ways people could help their communities with links to organizations like Feed America, Meals on Wheels, and Global Giving. Another former candidate, Cory Booker, also utilized his email list to explain what he's been fighting for as the relief package moved through Congress this week and urging supporters to donate to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey if they were able. Meanwhile, Warren may be out of the presidential race, but she's still serving up plans. In an email to her supporters, she urged them to follow guidance to help stem the coronavirus spread while delivering her own plan to combat the disease. Governor Jay Inslee, whose state of Washington has been hard hit by the coronavirus, also sent out an update on his office's efforts to his one-time presidential campaign email list, while Beto O'Rourke sent an update highlighting how he and his family have been helping out in his hometown of El Paso. His message to all: keep your distance, keep your spirit up & find ways to volunteer or donate to those in need.

PRIMARY CONCERNS

OHIO

On Friday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill moving the state's primary to April 28. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the primary will now also be entirely vote by mail except in cases where a voter is disabled or cannot receive mail. Under the new law, ballots must be received by 7:30 p.m. on April 28. Ballots returned after that deadline must be postmarked by April 27 and received by May 8 to be counted. This comes after the state health commissioner ordered polling places closed late on March 16, the day before the original March 17 election, calling it a health emergency. At the time, the Ohio secretary of state sent a directive that the primary would be held June 2, which has now been nullified. The Ohio Democratic Party slammed the confusion after the late-night move on the eve of the originally scheduled election saying it could not take place on March 17, but had been calling for the state to hold its primary before June 2.

PENNSYLVANIA

Amid fears of continued COVID-19 spreading, Pennsylvania's primary is now set to take place over a month after its scheduled date. Governor Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill moving the election from April 28 to June 2, along with three other bills directly related to the virus' spread. "Delaying this year's primary election as several other states have done is in the best interests of voters, poll workers and county election officials," Wolf said in a statement on the same day he expanded a "stay at home" order to 19 counties in the state. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says the bill had passed in both chambers of the statehouse Wednesday. It also looks to deal with polling place shortages, allowing counties to reduce them by up to 60 percent through consolidation for this election alone. The bill also allows counties to begin counting mail-in ballots the morning of Election Day. Over 200,000 of the state's registered voters had signed up for mail-in or absentee voting as of Friday, according to the governor's office.

Wolf also signed a bill allocating $50 million for medical equipment and supplies, as well as one to waive the requirement for schools to be open at least 180 days a year and one aimed at making it easier for workers affected by coronavirus to apply for unemployment. Citing the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic's effects, Wolf vetoed a bill that would give a tax credit to energy fertilizer companies. "Rather than enacting this bill, which gives a significant tax credit for energy and fertilizer manufacturing projects, we need to work together in a bipartisan manner to promote job creation and to enact financial stimulus packages for the benefit of Pennsylvanians who are hurting as they struggle with the substantial economic fallout of COVID-19," Wolf wrote in a release.

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is calling on the upcoming April 7 primary to be conducted by mail voting. In a video released on social media, Evers said he wants the legislature to ensure every registered voter receives an absentee ballot to vote in the upcoming election, allow absentee ballots to be postmarked up until Election Day and to extend the time clerks have to count the ballots. "The bottom line is that everybody should be able to participate in our Democracy," Evers said. "I understand that Republican leaders in the legislature yesterday expressed their support for not delaying the upcoming election, but as elected officials our top priority has to be everyone's safety." CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says the latest data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows that 767,196 people have requested absentee ballots. That's more than triple the number of absentee ballots sent during the 2016 presidential primary. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as of Tuesday, the state's Elections Commissioner Megan Wolfe said there were no conversations with the governor's office about how to conduct voting entirely by mail. "There is a lot of infrastructure we would need to discuss that we currently do not have in place," she wrote in an email to commission chairman Dean Knudson and commissioner Ann Jacobs.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is putting a "Disinformation Task Force" into action to help candidates and campaign staff with combating and responding to false information, partially in response to incidents of disinformation and conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus being spread online.

The memo, sent to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro by DCCC digital rapid response director Benjamin Block, claims that some Washington Republicans and foreign actors will openly spread disinformation to tip the scales in the 2020 elections. The memo itself lists some of the categories of disinformation, such as those directed at certain minority groups or disinformation dealing with voting rights. 

The DCCC memo also shows their partnership with other Democratic committees on a multi-million dollar effort to track incidents of false information and give advice to campaigns on developing rapid response plans, and research on disinformation narratives and those involved. 

Earlier this month, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a memo urging members and candidates to "not spread misinformation from politicized news stories" and to only use "trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services."

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