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July 22, 2020

Coronavirus Briefings, Aid Return

Trump held another press briefing Tuesday, while Congress debates more spending.

In mid April, our Mark Alexander warned President Donald Trump not to allow himself to become the “poster child for CV19 misery.” One of the biggest problems was Trump’s lengthy daily COVID press briefings, which at the end of April Alexander warned Trump to “disinfect.” Trump soon abandoned those briefings … only to reinstate them yesterday for the first time in more than two months.

It should go without saying that COVID-19 is not Trump’s fault. The federal response has actually been pretty good, and Trump has lived within the federalist system our Founders created. Yet he has allowed his pinball-machine handling of the pandemic to become a focal point. The president has taken an erratic stance on masks, for example, and he’s often busier attacking reporters and other political opponents in an effort to avoid any and all blame than he is in providing clear leadership. Predictably, that has led to steadily diminishing approval ratings and it could end up costing him the election in November. His base still cheers him on for boldness, but most Americans don’t see it that way.

Perhaps restarting a more tightly scripted and focused round of briefings will help right the ship. “We’ll be doing these quite often,” Trump said.

As for the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress is in the throes of negotiating yet another round of coronavirus relief money. “We want another round of … direct payments to help American families keep driving our national comeback,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “With a majority of businesses expected to exhaust their initial paycheck protection funding this summer, we’ll also be proposing a targeted second round of [the Paycheck Protection Program], with a special eye toward hard-hit businesses.”

Besides another round of direct payments, probably limited to lower income levels, and more aid for businesses, other items on the table include a payroll tax cut, extending “enhanced” unemployment benefits (which unfortunately end up paying some folks more to not work than to get back on the job), cash for schools (which the White House wants to tie to reopening), money for states, funding for more testing, and perhaps liability protection for businesses.

McConnell and Senate Republicans want to keep the total price tag at $1 trillion. Of course, House Democrats already passed their pitch weeks ago, an it came in at a staggering $3 trillion. Good luck negotiating that.

(Visit our comprehensive CV19 Pandemic response and recovery page to review our comprehensive timeline on government and political actions related to the pandemic, and see our related pages.

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