What to Know in Washington: Trump Says Police Won’t Be Weakened

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President Donald Trump accused Democrats of voting down a GOP police reform bill because they wanted to cripple law enforcement, as he continued to side with police amid protests over misconduct and racism.

“They want to weaken the police,” Trump said of Democrats yesterday during a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “And we can’t live with that.”

Trump spoke hours after Senate Democrats voted to block legislation by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) that would discourage the use of chokeholds and encourage police departments to require body cameras.

The legislative effort came after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, prompting a nationwide protests over racial inequality.

Democratic leaders said the Scott bill fell short of the changes needed after the Floyd killing. They complained the measure included no new federal restrictions on the use of lethal force or changes to the qualified immunity doctrine that limits lawsuits against police officers.

Those elements are included in a House bill likely to pass later today. Read more from Justin Sink.

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Happening on the Hill

Defense Policy Bill Heads to Senate Floor: The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote today on the $740.5 billion fiscal 2021 defense policy measure. DOD funding under the measure would include $636.4 billion subject to the defense spending cap and $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations purposes, which don’t count against the cap. The bill also would authorize $25.9 billion for Energy Department programs and $9.2 billion for other programs that contribute to the total. Roxana Tiron and Sarah Babbage take a deep dive on the measure in the BGOV Bill Summary.

Over $100 Billion in PPP Loans Left Unclaimed: Back in April, when the U.S. Small Business Administration was approving about $25 billion in coronavirus loans a day, lawmakers and companies were concerned that $669 billion in relief would run dry, leaving countless mom-and-pop firms hanging. Yet the Paycheck Protection Program had more than $100 billion in funding left as of last Saturday, with only days remaining until the SBA stops taking new applications on June 30.

The PPP loans were a lifeline for the more than 4.7 million companies that got assistance — with an unprecedented $516.5 billion approved over two rounds in less than three months. Still, demand waned after an initial barrage. Millions of the smallest and most vulnerable firms didn’t know they were eligible or didn’t apply because the complicated program didn’t meet their needs. Now, there’s debate in Congress about what to do with the leftover PPP money, and how to reach those businesses as the economy reopens in the midst of new virus outbreaks across the country. Read more from Mark Niquette.

  • Many domestic violence survivors who recently separated from their abusers likely never saw a dime of coronavirus relief money the government has been sending—a problem that advocates are pushing the IRS to rectify as Congress contemplates a second batch of payments. The relief law tasked the IRS with delivering millions of one-time direct payments to U.S. households, worth up to $1,200 for individuals—$2,400 for married couples—plus an extra $500 for each dependent child under the age of 17. The talk of more direct payments is bringing into focus groups who may have missed out on the first round. Allyson Versprille and Kaustuv Basu have more.
  • There’s also a push for lawmakers to help companies avoid taxes on canceled debts as they restructure—something congressional staff say they’re considering—as the pandemic has thrown oil and gas, retail, restaurant, and other sectors into a tailspin. When loans are canceled or significantly amended, the forgiven debts or modifications can trigger taxes for the borrower, with exceptions for those that are insolvent or bankrupt, among others. The forgiven portions of the $660 billion in small-business loans provided by the third coronavirus response law won’t be subject to tax, but many companies that restructure after the crisis are likely to face taxes on what’s known as cancellation of debt income, tax and financial professionals say. Read more from Lydia O’Neal.

Tech Liability Shield Targeted in Bill: Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced a measure that seeks to rein in technology companies’ Section 230 liability shield by forcing online platforms to remove certain illegal content. The bill would require “large online platforms” to remove court-determined illegal content within 24 hours, and would give small companies more flexibility in removing illegal content, based on company size and capacity, Ben Livesey reports.

Lawmakers Want $26 Billion for Research: A bipartisan House group unveiled a bill yesterday that would authorize approximately $26 billion in emergency aid to federal science agencies—such as HHS and the National Science Foundation—to distribute to research universities, national laboratories, and independent institutions to continue work on federally funded research projects, lawmakers including Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a statement. Read the text of the bill here.

NCAA Told to Stop Schools Seeking Virus Waivers: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in a letter yesterday called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to prohibit schools from “coercing” students to sign liability waivers that would exempt institutions from accountability for the spread of the coronavirus. A growing number of schools are requiring college athletes sign the waivers, the lawmakers said in a letter. Read more from Ben Livesey.

Virginia Court Says Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over ‘Cow’ Tweets: A Virginia court decided Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) can’t sue Twitter over posts that mocked the congressman on the social media platform. Read more from Andrew Ballard.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Pandemic Races Through U.S., Forcing Grim Reality on States: The U.S. is again approaching its all-time high for daily new cases, 36,188, set April 24 as the New York area was ravaged. The daunting new numbers reflect the virus’s inexorable spread in some states that were slow to enforce lockdowns or quick to lift them. The surge has prompted a stock-market selloff and drastic measures from government leaders. Read more from Margaret Newkirk, Jonathan Levin and Michelle Fay Cortez.

  • America is on track to lose 180,000 lives to coronavirus by the start of October, according to new data from experts modeling the pandemic at the University of Washington in Seattle, although an embrace of masks could decrease the damage. The forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is a reduction from a projection of 201,129 deaths from the middle of June, and is predicated on the expectation that the outbreak will start to pick up in late August and intensify further in September, with 179,106 deaths by Oct. 1. Read more.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. economic recovery is showing incipient signs of weakening in some states where coronavirus cases are mounting. The ebbing is evident in such high-frequency data as OpenTable restaurant reservations and follows a big bounce in activity as businesses reopened from lockdowns meant to check the spread of Covid-19. “We’re now starting to see very early evidence that things are leveling off” in some of the states that reopened first and are now suffering rising virus cases, said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. Read more from Rich Miller.

U.S., EU Discuss Restarting Travel: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is working with the European Union over how to restart travel suspended by the Covid-19 pandemic, even as the bloc considers whether to exclude Americans from an initial reopening plan. The U.S. doesn’t want to open back up in a way that “jeopardizes the United States from people traveling here—and we certainly don’t want to cause problems anyplace else,” Pompeo told reporters. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

U.S. Rejects Link Between Virus, Food: U.S. health and agricultural authorities issued thinly veiled criticism of demands from China for food companies to sign documents stating they comply with safety standards to prevent transmission of the novel disease. “Efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to Covid-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a joint statement. Read more from Mike Dorning.

Cancer Immune Therapies Tied to Severe Covid-19: Cancer patients treated with medications that unleash the immune system to attack tumors are more likely to be hospitalized with respiratory complications from Covid-19, according to a new study. The findings suggest that while immune therapies or checkpoint inhibitors may increase the risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms, other treatments like chemotherapy may not. Read more from James Paton.

Elections & Politics

Biden Now Leads in Six Key States: Joe Biden leads Trump in every one of six key battleground states, all but erasing the advantage with White voters that Trump used to put together a razor-thin victory four years ago. The New York Times/Siena College poll of swing states, together with national polls showing Biden with a double-digit lead, helps to draw an Electoral College map that will be increasingly difficult for Trump to win.

Biden leads Trump by 10 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 11 in Michigan and Wisconsin, reclaiming the three “blue wall” states that Trump broke through to beat Hillary Clinton. But the presumptive Democratic nominee also leads in three other states thought to be more reliably Republican, including Florida by 6 points, Arizona by 7 points and North Carolina by 9 points.

Biden’s improved polling comes from a cross-section of demographic groups, but the Times poll shows the most significant movement in battleground states comes among White voters — especially college-educated ones — and young people. He’s also flipped voters aged 65 and older to his column, which helps to explain his improved standing in Florida and Arizona. Read more from Gregory Korte.

  • Meanwhile, Trump isn’t doing much of what a typical incumbent does in an election year, Joshua Green reports. He hasn’t rolled out an ambitious second-term agenda. He doesn’t make a big show of trying to unify the country. He isn’t using the White House Rose Garden to host foreign dignitaries or captains of industry to showcase the powers of the presidency and remind people what he can do for them. By focusing unwaveringly on his base, he isn’t doing the one thing presidents in both parties have always done when seeking a second term: making a concerted play for undecided voters in the middle. Read more.

Trump Says Obama and Biden Should Have Fixed It All: Faced with crises from the coronavirus pandemic to nationwide protests against police brutality, Trump is increasingly turning to a favored defense: Blame Barack Obama. Deriding his predecessor carries twin benefits for the president. It offers an escape from failures such as the botched rollout of coronavirus testing, and it drags down his opponent, Biden. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Democrats Tell Delegates to Stay Home: The Democratic National Convention told state delegates to stay away from the gathering in Milwaukee this summer as the party said it was significantly scaling back its nominating convention due to the pandemic. Joe Biden will still officially accept the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin, but the thousands of delegates who usually pack a convention hall for the week-long festivities will not be there. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Blackstone’s Tony James Hosts Fundraiser for Biden: Blackstone Group Executive Vice Chairman Tony James hosted a small, high-dollar fundraiser for Democratic nominee Joe Biden yesterday. Biden has been seeking to balance his efforts to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign from wealthy donors with the policy concerns of progressives who hope to see him enact tough rules on Wall Street if elected. James is viewed by other Wall Street donors as a potential candidate for a top job in a Biden administration. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

What Else to Know Today

Agriculture Policy—BGOV Hill Watch Live: Join Deputy Agriculture Secretary Stephen Censky, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barbara Glenn, and BGOV’s Megan Boyanton for the Spring 2020 Hill Watch Live Part II: A Deep Dive Into the State of Agriculture Policy today at 1 p.m. Panelists are set to discuss the department’s 2020 priorities and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, among other issues. Register here.

Top White House Economist Leaving: The White House’s top economist is departing his job at the end of June, leaving Trump’s team shorthanded as it plots a comeback from the coronavirus-induced recession. Tomas Philipson, who has served as acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers since last July, will return to the University of Chicago in the fall, according to White House spokesman Judd Deere. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Trump Says U.S. to Relocate Troops to Poland: Trump said some U.S. troops stationed in Germany will be sent to Poland, reiterating his criticism of Berlin’s defense spending. “We’ll probably be moving them from Germany to Poland,” Trump said yesterday during a Rose Garden conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Trump was referring to a portion of the troops he has previously announced would be withdrawn from Germany, Joshua Gallu reports.

Pentagon Names Chinese Firms It Says Led by Military: The Pentagon put Huawei and China Railway Construction Corp on a list of 20 companies it says are owned or controlled by China’s military, opening them up to potential additional U.S. sanctions. In letters to lawmakers, the Pentagon said it was providing a list of “Communist Chinese military companies operating in the United States.” Read more from Tony Capaccio and Jenny Leonard.

Attorneys General Sue DeVos on Title IX: Democratic attorneys general filed separate lawsuits against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday to block a campus sexual misconduct rule and to stop the repeal of Obama administration regulations designed to protect student borrowers from poor quality university programs, Andrew Kreighbaum reports. Find a statement from the 19 attorneys general here.

Former NSC Official Victoria Coates Heads to UAE as Energy Envoy: Former Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates arrived in Abu Dhabi in her new role as a Department of Energy envoy and will focus on working with the United Arab Emirates before moving to Saudi Arabia, a senior administration official said. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

WikiLeaks’ Assange Accused of Conspiring With ‘Anonymous’ Hackers: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange conspired with hackers affiliated with the “Anonymous” and “LulzSec” groups, which have been linked to numerous cyberattacks around the world, according to new indictment by the U.S. Justice Department. Read more from Edvard Pettersson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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