While the briefing is underway, Congress is voting on the $484bn package for small businesses. Only five representatives have voted against the deal, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Republicans Thomas Massie, Jody Hice, Ken Buck, and Andy Biggs.
Ocasio-Cortez has maintained that the bill doesn’t go far enough in providing relief for hospitals and coronavirus testing effots.
.@RepAOC @AOC: “It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill…you are not trying fix this bill for mom & pops. We have to fight to fund hospitals. Fighting to fund testing…It is unconscionable.”
Full video here: https://t.co/IBennHJzF3 pic.twitter.com/1rx1e16Unr
April 23, 2020
“We’re very close to a vaccine,” Trump said, before immediately contradicting himself. “We’re not close on testing” the vaccine, he clarified.
Public health officials have said that it will take at least a year to 18 months to test and approve a vaccine.
“Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and other institutions” will return funds to the federal government, Trump said.
The president had a public dispute with Harvard this week. Education secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday also called on “elite, wealthy institutions” should not take relief funds intended for struggling educational institutions.
After initially refusing to comply with Trump’s demand that they return the funds, Harvard announced it would return $8.6m in taxpayer funds.
The daily coronavirus briefing has begun
Stay tuned for live coverage and fact-checking
The owner of the Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain said the company could return $20m in federal loans intended for small businesses. This week, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said the government would ask bigcompanies to return money after the Payroll Protection Program, created to help companies cover payroll and expenses, ran out of money last week.
Congress is expecting to add an additional $320bn to the fund.
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
Dr Rick Bright said he would file a whistleblower complaint after being removed from his role overseeing the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Bright has claimed he was moved to a less important role at the department of health and human services because he refused to promote the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment. Despite limited evidence, Trump has touted the drug as a potential “game changer” in coronavirus treatment.
The House approved a resolution to create a select committee to review the distribution of coronavirus relief funds. The final vote was 212-182 and fell exactly along party lines, with Republicans unanimously voting against the Democratic proposal. The House will soon vote on the nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by the Senate yesterday.
Few Americans trust Trump as a source for information on the pandemic. According to a new AP/NORC poll, only 23% of Americans say they have high levels of trust in the information the president shares. Another 21% say they have a moderate amount of trust in his information.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo fiercely criticized Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for suggesting states should declare bankruptcy instead of receiving more federal funds. The Democratic governor called McConnell’s suggestion “one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” and he said McConnell’s warning against “bailouts” for Democratic states was “irresponsible” and “reckless.”
Elizabeth Warren announced her older brother died of coronavirus this week. The Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate had not previously disclosed that her brother, Don Reed Herring, had tested positive for the virus.
Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
House approves select committee on coronavirus along party lines
The House has voted exactly along party lines to create a select committee to review the distribution of coronavirus relief funds.
The final vote was 212-182, and it took an hour and a half to complete because members were asked to vote in staggered groups to limit the risk of coronavirus spread.
Despite concerns about lawmakers traveling to Washington as the DC region remains under stay-at-home orders, only 35 members did not return to the Capitol to cast their votes.
The House will now take a 15-minute recess to have the chamber cleaned, and members will then return to vote on the nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief package.
When asked about Dr Rick Bright’s claim that he was ousted from his role at HHS because he refused to echo questionable claims regarding potential coronavirus treatments, Trump pleaded ignorance.
“I never heard of him,” the president said at his press conference yesterday. “If a guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. You’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is.”
But some of the president’s critics raised concerns that Bright’s demotion was further evidence of the administration’s efforts to sideline experts in the middle of a pandemic.
Ron Klain, who oversaw the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, warned the White House was trying to “put politics ahead of science and safety.”
Dr. Bright is a professional — an expert on vaccines — who I met during the Ebola response. If this is true, it — along with the attacks on Dr. Messionier — represents an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to put politics ahead of science and safety. https://t.co/vnQB8Ja6GL
April 22, 2020
Dr Rick Bright formerly served as the director of the department of health and human services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response, but he was recently demoted to a much smaller role at the National Institutes of Health.
Bright said in a statement yesterday that he believed he was ousted because he refused to back some of Trump’s questionable claims about coronavirus.
“Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright said.
“While I am prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public.”