THE ESPN DOCUMENTARY ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN and the Chicago Bulls debuts this week, and President DONALD TRUMP’S threat to adjourn Congress to push through stalled nominees reminds us of another Michael Jordan moment.
REMEMBER THOSE MCDONALD’S COMMERCIALS where Larry Bird played Jordan in H-O-R-S-E, and he’d say, “Off the floor, off the scoreboard, off the bank board, no rim”? And Jordan would reply, “Over the second rafter, off the floor, nothing but net.”
THOSE SHOTS — comically hard, stupid, but funny — are reminiscent of TRUMP saying he will use a never-before-tried constitutional method to confirm some nominees in the middle of a pandemic.
WONK ALERT! … SURE, TRUMP CAN try to adjourn the Senate to get more nominees through, but it would be exceedingly hard. TO UNDERSTAND the absolute absurdity of TRUMP’S argument, here’s what would have to happen: Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL would have to bring the Senate back, and they’d have to vote to adjourn. Speaker NANCY PELOSI would then have to bring the House back, and the House would have to amend the Senate’s adjournment resolution — essentially voting against it. Then the Senate would have to disagree to the House’s amendment. ONLY THEN can TRUMP adjourn Congress, according to experts.
— BUT THE ODDS OF THAT are so infinitesimal they are hardly calculable. PELOSI can essentially ignore the resolution from the Senate, starving TRUMP of the disagreement he needs to adjourn unilaterally. Ah, you say, it’s privileged, and thereby gets immediate consideration? Nah. PELOSI can turn off the privilege in a rule with a simple majority vote and then she doesn’t have to touch it. No disagreement, no adjournment from TRUMP.
— EVEN MORE REMOTE: IF TRUMP were to somehow force adjournment, clause 12(c) of Rule I of the House Rules — added after 9/11 — allows PELOSI to bring the House back immediately after TRUMP adjourns. Like seconds after it happens. He would never have any time to recess appoint anyone. (N.B.: Most of these processes has never been tested, so courts would probably have thoughts about this whole process.)
ALSO, TRUMP doesn’t have a whole lot to complain about when it comes to nominees. He has remade the judiciary with 193 new judges (h/t SEUNG MIN KIM). Eighty-two executive branch nominations are pending, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s Political Appointee Tracker. Many are stuck in committee, which, as CARL HULSE of the NYT points out, means that Republicans probably have issues with them, not Democrats.
BACK IN REALITY, THERE ARE PRESSING issues. Namely that one of the pro-forma sessions that the president is railing about is happening today, and there’s no agreement on how to refill the PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM, a critical small-business lending fund that is about to run dry, or already has run dry — depending on whom you ask. More from Zach Warmbrodt
THE IMPASSE, as we’ve told you a few times already, is over Democrats’ request that billions for hospitals and state and local governments ride alongside the money for the small-business fund. Republicans reject the strategy of pairing the small-business money, and, theoretically, so does the White House.
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP has been huddling with Treasury officials to try to solve the issue, raising the ire of SENATE REPUBLICANS, who keep wondering if the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION forgets that their party controls the Senate. A senior Democratic aide said, “Pelosi and Schumer staff spoke by conference call [Wednesday] with Secretary Mnuchin and Treasury staff. A follow-up conversation is expected [Thursday].”
NEW … A DEAL IS NOT EXPECTED before the Senate has its pro-forma session today at 10 a.m., which means the fund seems likely to remain empty for at least the weekend, and some people believe it could be empty for even longer. BUT: Senior White House officials say they could accept some hospital money if that’s what it took to get the $251 billion in small-business funding that they’ve requested. Senate sources say that package could have trouble getting unanimous consent.
IT’S POSSIBLE a large number of small businesses may go bankrupt because they can’t get these loans. AT THE MOMENT, however, the president is making idle threats about a few executive branch nominees.
ANOTHER HISTORIC NYT FRONT: Banner headline: “SALES AT U.S. STORES HIT ‘CATASTROPHIC’ DEPTHS” — with the -8.7% bar graph plunging down into the lead column.
DEVASTATING DEATH TOLL: “Worldwide coronavirus infections surge past 2 million, U.S. deaths top 28,000,” by WaPo’s Brady Dennis
Good Thursday morning.
FREEDOM FOR ME, BUT NOT THEE … THE ROYAL FAMILY … NYT’S ANNIE KARNI: “Ivanka Trump, Disregarding Federal Guidelines, Travels to N.J. for Passover”: “Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, traveled with their three children to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey to celebrate the first night of Passover this month, according to two people with knowledge of their travel plans, even as seders across the country were canceled and families gathered remotely over apps like Zoom.”
— WHY STAY AT HOME when you can defy state, local and federal guidelines and escape Washington with your family? All while filming videos urging people to and praising people for staying home.
AP/BEIJING: “China, Europe show restarting virus-hit economies not easy,” by AP’s Rick Perry and Joe McDonald in Beijing: “Workers back on the job are wary of spending much or going out. Shoppers are staying away from the few stores reopening. Masks and social distancing measures are not fading. And pervasive is the fear the virus could return if lockdowns meant to stop its spread are eased too much, too quickly.
“Still, leaders are anxious to reopen factories, schools and shops and to repair the economic damage from the pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people and claimed more than 137,000 lives. Some Chinese cities tried reassuring consumers by showing officials eating in restaurants. …
“Rome’s streets were largely deserted despite some stores reopening. In Vienna, clothing store owner Marie Froehlich said her staff was happy to be back after weeks cooped up at home. But dependent largely on tourism, she expects the business will take months to return to normal. ‘Until then, we are in crisis mode,’ she said.” AP … Ryan Heath on how countries can’t agree on a coronavirus exit strategy
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE ‘OPENING OUR COUNTRY COUNCIL’ …
— WSJ’S MIKE BENDER and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “Banking and financial services executives told President Trump that his administration needed to dramatically increase the availability of coronavirus testing before the public would be confident enough to return to work, eat at restaurants or shop in retail establishments, according to people familiar with the matter.”
— NYT, by Annie Karni, Kate Kelly and David Gelles: “Trump’s ‘Opening Our Country Council’ Runs Into Its Own Opening Problems”: “Some business leaders had no idea they were included until they heard that their names had been read in the Rose Garden on Tuesday night by President Trump. Some of those who had agreed to help said they received little information on what, exactly, they were signing up for. And others who were willing to connect with the White House could not participate in hastily organized conference calls on Wednesday because of scheduling conflicts and technical difficulties.
“In short, the rollout of what the president referred to last week as his ‘Opening Our Country Council’ was as confusing as the process of getting there. Instead of a formal council, what Mr. Trump announced on Tuesday was a watered-down version that included 17 separate industry groups, including hospitality, banking, energy and ‘thought leaders.’ And on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers received emails inviting them to join another task force. …
“Cisco Systems, the networking company, and McDonald’s were among the major employers that learned of their involvement in consulting with the president only when he mentioned their names on Tuesday evening, according to people familiar with the matter. Pfizer was also blindsided by its inclusion in the group, receiving a heads-up that Mr. Trump might mention the company an hour before the announcement, with no information about how many other companies were involved or what the purpose of the group was.”
— WAPO, by Bob Costa, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez: “Some of the groups involved in the calls were notified in advance of Trump’s announcement, while others heard their names for the first time during the Rose Garden event Tuesday night.
“‘We got a note about a conference call, like you’d get an invite to a Zoom thing, a few lines in an email, and that was it. Then our CEO heard his name in the Rose Garden? What the [expletive]?’ said one prominent Washington lobbyist for a leading global corporation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. ‘My company is furious. How do you go from “Join us on a call” to, “Well, you’re on our team?”’”
JUST ASKING: IF YOU WERE A CEO, would you want to be publicly associated with this council if there’s a real risk that TRUMP aggressively pushes for an opening before the country is ready?
DAN DIAMOND: “Stephen Miller’s hardline policies on refugee families make a comeback at HHS”: “After the Trump administration abruptly installed a new hardline leader last month, the health department’s refugee office is pushing to implement immigration policies favored by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, according to four health department officials and internal documents reviewed by POLITICO.
“The office — which takes custody of thousands of migrant children — is now seeking to delay placing migrant children in shelters operated by the health department, which would instead leave those children in the custody of the border patrol for an extended length of time, according to an internal email sent last week and reviewed by POLITICO.”
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president will participate in a G-7 leaders’ video teleconference on the response to Covid-19 at 8:30 a.m. in the Situation Room. Then it’s a phone call with House members at 10 a.m., followed by a call with senators at 11 a.m. in the Oval Office. Trump will deliver remarks celebrating truckers at 1:30 p.m. on the South Lawn, then hold a teleconference with governors at 3 p.m. in the Situation Room.
— THE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE will hold a briefing at 5 p.m.
JOHN HARRIS’ latest “Altitude” column: “The shutdown backlash is coming soon—with a vengeance”: “Among the questions looming over American politics is about the nature of what promise to be multiple backlashes over different dimensions of the coronavirus crisis. Most obvious is what price Trump pays for his administration’s tardiness in responding to the contagion in its early stages. Less obvious is what price supporters of activist government pay for the most astounding and disruptive intervention in the everyday life of the nation since World War II.
“The imminent libertarian surge is not a sure thing but is more than a hunch. In informal conversations, one hears the sentiment even from people I know to be fundamentally progressive and inclined to defer to whatever health officials say is responsible and necessary to mitigate the worst effects of coronavirus. It is possible both to support the shutdown and powerfully resent it — the draconian nature of the response, and the widespread perception that to voice skepticism of any aspect of its necessity is outside respectable bounds.” POLITICO
AMID TALK OF SPORTS’ RETURN — “Garcetti: Sporting events, concerts unlikely in Los Angeles until 2021,” by Alexander Nieves in Oakland
WAPO’S PAUL KANE: “Congress operates like a college, making a return to regular order complicated”: “More than 10,000 employees, on a normal day, are spread across the Capitol, seven office buildings for lawmakers and committees, the Capitol Police headquarters, the Library of Congress and a dormitory for Senate pages. …
“The most basic duties — 100 senators showing up for a roll call, or up to 435 members of the House voting — are inherent violations of federal health guidelines that say groups should be limited to no more than 10 people.
“And then there are the dozens of members of the House who, rather than rent or own a private apartment, live in their offices. Each morning these lawmakers use showers in the House gym to get ready for that day’s work representing their constituents.”
TRUMP’S MIDWESTERN HEADACHE — “Hot spots erupt in farm belt states where governors insist lockdowns aren’t needed,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein, Dan Goldberg, and Nolan D. McCaskill: “The only hospital in Grand Island, Neb., is full. The mayor has asked for a statewide stay-at-home order that the GOP governor insists isn’t needed. More than one-third of those tested for coronavirus in the surrounding county are positive — and there aren’t enough tests to go around.
“Grand Island is the fourth-biggest city in a state President Donald Trump and his top health officials repeatedly name check for keeping the virus at bay without the strict lockdowns 42 other states have imposed. Except that new cases there and in Iowa, South Dakota and other parts of the heartland are starting to spike, raising concern about new hot spots that could quash Trump’s push to reopen the economy and extend the public health crisis well into the summer.
“Trump and red state governors for weeks have fairly bragged about how large parts of the farm belt have escaped the ravages of the virus without the enforced shelter-in-place policies common on both coasts. It’s still unclear whether the states actually ‘flattened the curve,’ or if the virus just reached there later.
“But now, cases are erupting, threatening a local population that doesn’t always have easy access to the same health care as more urban areas. And the outbreaks are striking the heart of the nation’s farming and meatpacking industry, potentially disrupting the national distribution of food as meat processing plants close down and truckers who move food across the country are sidelined by illness.” POLITICO
DOWN BALLOT — “Democrats eye tantalizing Senate prize in Georgia but face doubts about seizing it,” by WaPo’s Mike DeBonis
MEDIAWATCH — Nick Juliano and Catherine Boudreau are launching POLITICO’s new sustainability vertical as policy editor and reporter. Juliano previously was deputy energy editor and Boudreau previously was an agriculture reporter.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
ICYMI — “White House snubs Azar, installs Trump loyalist Michael Caputo as HHS spokesperson,” by Dan Diamond and Daniel Lippman: “The move is designed to assert more White House control over Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whom officials believe has been behind recent critical reports about President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two officials.”
DHS ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Jonathan Fahey is now a senior adviser at DHS. He previously was in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia for 17 years, with a brief stint in 2018 as general counsel of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Ginger Gibson, deputy Washington editor for NBC News Digital, and Travis Burk, senior director of comms at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, welcomed Madison “Maddie” Alicia Burk on Tuesday. Pic … Another pic
— Carmiel Arbit, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Spencer Mahony, a deputy trade commissioner for the U.K. government, recently welcomed Maya Adina Mahony. Pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Manny Alvarez, a Fox News medical contributor. What he’s reading during social distancing: “I am writing a book myself and doing some research for that. Currently, I’m reading ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ — a book about the yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793 and Dr. Benjamin Rush.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) is 57 … Matt Saunders, VP of investments at Helena and a Trump WH alum … former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker … Ann Romney is 71 … Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is 94 … Tony Blinken … Frances Lanzone, founder of Chief Social Architects … Sefy Hendler (h/ts Ben Chang) … Scott Pastrick, president and CEO of Prime Policy Group … Chuck DeFeo, VP of products at i360, is 46 … Patricia “Tichi” Andrés (h/t Jorge Guajardo) … Jason Embry … Sally-Shannon Birkel of the U.S. Chamber … Morgan Jones … Matt Duckworth … Virginia Coyne … Mariette DiChristina … Deborah Zabarenko … Ramona Oliver, senior director for comms at the National Education Association … Jane Oates, a former Kennedy staffer now with Working Nation … Stephen Kessler … POLITICO’s Lina Miller … Reuters’ Andy Sullivan, Frances Kerry and Anthony Boadle … Zack Hubbard … former VA Secretary Anthony Principi is 76 … Heather Purcell, deputy COS and comms director for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) (h/t Julia Albertson) …
… Alex Glass, president at Glass Ceiling Strategies … Aubree Abril … Spencer Brown is 27 (h/t Gabby Orr) … Adam Gotbaum … Doug Heye, GOP strategist and CNN political commentator … Bradley Beychok, president and co-founder of American Bridge, is 38 (h/t Jon Haber) … Katie Oppenheim (h/t William and Teddy) … Nick McGee, director of public affairs at PhRMA … former Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) is 79 … Josh Goldstein, director of media and policy communications at S&P Global (h/t Joshua Cohen) … Paige Pearson … Kunal Atit, deputy campaign manager for CA-25 candidate Christy Smith (h/t Samantha Greene) … Fred Graefe … Arezu Kay … Alix Ohrt … Tori O’Neal-McElrath, chief of external affairs at NAACP … Sarah Wolfson Butler … AP’s Ted Anthony … NBC’s Mosheh Gains … Nao Matsukata (h/t Fred Graefe) … Paolo Sacco … Jess Fuhrman … Andie Taverna … Lynn Schnurnberger … Geoff Middleberg … Christopher Finan … Amy Kaslow … Brett Coughlin … Brian Bravo … Annie Bardach … Jim Hollis … Howard Bauleke … Arlene Branca