This Muslim Women’s Day, celebrate 10 stereotype smashers from comic books to Congress

Muslim-Americans continue to face Islamophobia and discrimination based on their religion and appearance. Despite Muslims making strides in their community and working to bridge the gap between identities, stereotypical portrayals of Muslims in the media can often contribute to misconceptions and xenophobic ideology. Studies of FBI hate crime statistics have found an increase in hate crimes and assaults based on religion since Sept. 11 in 2001. Recently, representation in the media has allowed for stories of Muslim-Americans to be shared. While Muslim women often face more discrimination, narratives by and stories of men are shared more frequently. In 2017, data from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that Muslim women were more likely than Muslim men to report discrimination. Although more likely to be targeted in bias crimes—especially if they wear hijab—Muslim women were also found less likely to say they feared for their safety from racist groups. 

Discrimination against Muslim women occurs across the country each day, taking the form of not only physical hate crimes but verbal abuse and bias in everyday activities. In 2016, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh declared Muslim Women’s Day on March 27. Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of, a platform for Muslim women to share their voice. She launched the day to celebrate and support Muslim women who are often excluded from mainstream media, Women’s Day celebrations, and feminist movements. "In the current climate, Muslim women are rarely given the space to be heard above all the noise," Al-Khatahtbeh wrote in a tweet. 

Celebrating Muslim women one day a year is not enough, but having a day that brings Muslim women together to celebrate one another on- and offline is inspirational. Muslim Women’s day brings the narrative back into our hands—it allows us to amplify our voices and finally be passed the mic. Muslim women are diverse, independent, empowered, and resilient. We should be celebrated. In honor of the fourth annual Muslim Women’s Day on Friday, March 27, Daily Kos has put together a list of unapologetic Muslim-American women.

Halima Aden:

In 2016, then 19-year-old Halima Aden became one of the first Muslim-American women to compete for the title of Miss Minnesota USA while fully covered. Aden made American history as the first-ever contestant in the competition to wear a hijab and burkini. She later made headlines again for being the first Muslim model to pose in a burkini for Sports Illustrated

"Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab," Aden said in a video shoot for Sports Illustrated. "Don't be afraid to be the first.” 

Ibtihaj Muhammad:

Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in 2016 as the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States. Muhammad, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, won a bronze medal in the women's fencing team’s sabre event.

She began fencing at just 13 years old after her parents searched for a sport that she could participate in while wearing the hijab. “It’s a tough political environment we’re in right now. Muslims are under the microscope,” Muhammad said during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Committee summit in Los Angeles. “It’s all really a big dream—I don’t think it’s hit me yet. The honor of representing Muslim and black women is one I don’t take lightly.”

In 2017, Mattel unveiled its first-ever hijab-wearing Barbie doll in honor of Muhammad.

Noor Tagouri:

Noor Tagouri is a young, badass, award-winning journalist who made headlines as the first woman to be featured in Playboy Magazine with a hijab. Featured as a rule-breaker, Playboy said Tagouri “makes a surprising bold case for modesty.” Tagouri is known nationwide for her unapologetic and strong voice: In 2019 she received a Gracies award for Best Investigative Series for her podcast and documentary series, Sold in America: Inside Our Nation’s Sex Trade. As an outspoken and strong voice, Tagouri represents the unseen reality of many empowered Muslim women. “I believe in rebellion as a form of honesty,” she said during a TEDx Talk. “To be our most authentic self is to be rebellious.”

Rana Abdelhamid:

Rana Abdelhamid is a community organizer and activist from Queens, New York. Founder of the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), a self-defense and leadership program for Muslim women, Abdelhamid empowers women to find strength within themselves to combat Islamophobia. Abdelhamid is well known for her work with WISE in addition to her beautiful photography series, “Hijabis of New York,” a spinoff of the popular Humans of New York series.

Abdelhamid told PBS News Hour that surviving an attack by a man who tried to remove her hijab inspired her to found WISE. “I remember feeling a tug at the back of my hijab,” she said. “I turned around and there was a broad-shouldered man trying to reach again, trying to physically attack me and take off my hijab. I was able to get away from that, but I was left feeling very vulnerable … Because of that moment, I felt there was something that could be done to bring together Muslim women who are faced with these challenges.”

Dalia Mogahed:

Dalia Mogahed is a well-known scholar in the Muslim community for her activism, leadership, and engagement work. She currently serves as the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). Former President Barack Obama appointed Mogahed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. Her 2016 TED Talk on “What it’s like to be a Muslim in America” quickly became viral. “What happened after 9/11? Did we go to the mosque or did we play it safe and stay home? Well, we talked it over, and it might seem like a small decision, but to us, it was about what kind of America we wanted to leave for our kids: one that would control us by fear or one where we were practicing our religion freely,"

Amirah Sackett:
Amirah Sackett is best known for her dance group, “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” that performs hip-hop dances in niqabs. Sackett is an internationally recognized hip-hop dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She created her dance group with the hope of changing stereotypes against Muslim women. “I wanted to educate others and reflect the beauty that I know and love in Muslim women," she said in an interview with Bust Magazine. “Yes, there are oppressed women in the Muslim world. Women are oppressed the world over. These are our mutual struggles.”

Ilhan Omar:

Born in Somalia, Ilhan Omar immigrated to the U.S. as a Somalian refugee when she was 12 years old. With her victory in Minnesota in 2016, she made history as the first Somali-American Muslim woman to be elected to a state legislature. Omar now serves as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district. Her outspoken and strong advocacy for immigrant rights and racial justice makes her stand out amongst other members of Congress. Omar, along with other progressives in the House, has been widely attacked by alt-right and Donald Trump supporters since taking office. “It is the land of liberty and justice for all, but we have to work for it,” Omar told HuffPost. “Our democracy is great, but it’s fragile. It’s come through a lot of progress, and we need to continue that progress to make it actually ‘justice for all.’”

Rashida Tlaib:

Ilhan Omar wasn’t the only Muslim woman to be elected into the House last year. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, shared the title with Omar as the first Muslim woman to be sworn into Congress in 2019. Tlaib serves as the U.S. Representative for Michigan's 13th congressional district. She remains a fierce role model for Muslim women worldwide. Prior to being sworn in, Tlaib shared a sneak peek of her outfit on Instagram, displaying her intention to be sworn into Congress wearing a traditional Palestinian thobe. In an article for Elle, Tlaib explained why she decided to wear the traditional attire: “Throughout my career in public service, the residents I have had the privilege of fighting for have embraced who I am, especially my Palestinian roots. This is what I want to bring to the United States Congress, an unapologetic display of the fabric of the people in this country. This is why I decided to wear a thobe when I am sworn into the 116th Congress.”

In addition to being widely known for wearing a thobe, Tlaib made headlines hours after she was sworn in for advocating to impeach Donald Trump.

Representation matters.

In 2014, every superhero-loving Muslim girl leaped with joy to hear the announcement of Kamala Khan as the new Ms. Marvel. Created by a team of four, including two Muslim women—G.Willow Wilson and Sana Amanat—Marvel welcomed its first-ever Muslim hero into the Marvel Universe. 

"Everywhere I looked, particularly in the media and pop culture, were versions of people that looked nothing like me," Amanat told Vox. "What happens is when you see that, you think that you're not worthy enough, or you're not good enough, or you're not normal, really." This representation allows Muslim youth to not only relate more to Marvel comics, but to feel included. In December, Disney was reportedly looking to cast a Pakistani-American for the role of Kamala Khan. (As a Pakistani-American from New Jersey, I fit the role. If I could act, you know I’d go for it.) Representation in all stages of life matters, and such representation impacts the development of youth.

The excitement continued in 2019 when Muslim-Americans and Muslim youth worldwide freaked out at the sight of Marvel including their first-ever hijabi character in a major film. Muslims make up a large portion of the U.S. population, especially in New York. In 2019, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home featured actress Zoha Rahman as a hijabi friend of the iconic character, Peter Parker.

“It’s time to hear from a community that’s often talked about but rarely given the chance to speak,” Al-Khatahtbeh wrote. “Contrary to what people might think, Muslim women talk back. And on Muslim Women’s Day, the world will be listening.”

#MuslimWomensDay is BACK for our 4th year TOMORROW! In an unprecedented moment of self-isolation and social distancing, we are talking back to the theme of "Autonomy" � from the voices that aren't always represented in the conversation. Amplify the narrative on 3/27! �

� Muslim Girl (@muslimgirl) March 26, 2020

Senate Republicans knew the country was facing disaster yet still voted to keep Trump in office

After a week during which the nation began to watch the coronavirus horrors we have seen play out in other countries finally make their way into our own hospitals, it's worth remembering the active role Senate Republicans played in getting us here. During the critical early handling of the virus here in the U.S., senators from both parties had a window into what was to come—well before the virus had even made the radar of most Americans. 

But instead of focusing on preparing for a potential pandemic in the making, Senate Republicans were busy staging a sham no-witness impeachment trial for Donald Trump so they could ultimately vote to acquit him, ensuring that Trump would be at the helm as the nation faced the greatest public health crisis in a century. That trial began on Jan. 16 and concluded on Feb. 5 with Trump's acquittal. But that critical three-week period also included early warning signs that U.S. senators, in particular, were privy to. As one U.S. official told The Washington Post about the intelligence reporting shared with both Trump officials and members of Congress in January, "Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were -- they just couldn't get him to do anything about it. ... The system was blinking red."

On Jan. 20, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus here in the U.S., a Washington man who had recently returned from visiting Wuhan, China, the city where the disease had first taken hold.

On Jan. 24, the Senate Health and Foreign Relations Committees hosted a private, all-senators briefing on the coronavirus with Trump health officials, including the CDC director and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That date has gained some notoriety in the past week as reports emerged that four U.S. senators began dumping stock shortly after that briefing. In fact, one of them, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, reported her first stock sale on that very day. GOP Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma sold at least $180,000 in stocks on Jan. 27.

But the most glaring case was Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina unloading up to $1.7 million in stocks on Feb. 13 after getting access to all the latest intelligence on the virus as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Burr was also briefed on Feb. 12 by government health experts about overall national preparedness and how an epidemic might impact the U.S. In fact, there's no question Burr was alarmed by what he was hearing because he ultimately relayed a very stark assessment of the catastrophe ahead during a private meeting with wealthy constituents in late February.

Bottom line: Republican senators were getting a window into the calamity the U.S. might be facing in just a couple of months’ time. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa put out a statement on Feb. 4 saying the panel he heads, the Senate Finance Committee which oversees the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), had just been briefed by the National Security office within HHS.

“The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China," he said in a statement, downplaying the threat. “For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready."

The following day, Feb. 5, Grassley and 51 of his Republican colleagues voted to clear Trump of wrongdoing and keep him in office—every GOP senator except Mitt Romney of Utah.

They knew. They voted to keep Trump in charge. They own it. Never forget.

Fox Business Ditches Trish Regan After Coronavirus ‘Impeachment Scam’ Rant

Fox Business Ditches Trish Regan After Coronavirus ‘Impeachment Scam’ RantFox Business Network announced on Friday that it has officially “parted ways” with anchor Trish Regan following her controversial rant against what she called the “coronavirus impeachment scam” earlier this month. “We thank her for her contributions to the network over the years and wish her continued success in her future endeavors,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue our reduced live primetime schedule for the foreseeable future in an effort to allocate staff resources to continuous breaking news coverage on the Coronavirus crisis.”“I have enjoyed my time at FOX and now intend to focus on my family during these troubled times,” Regan said in her own statement. “I am grateful to my incredible team at FOX Business and for the many opportunities the network has provided me. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my career.”Regan was previously placed on an indefinite hiatus after she delivered a surreal monologue on Monday, March 9th in which she accused Democrats and the media of perpetuating a coronavirus hoax. With the words “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam” on the screen next to her, Regan told viewers, “We've reached a tipping point. The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”“Many in the liberal media using, and I mean using, coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president,” she added. Following what amounted to a suspension, Regan tried to pass off her situation as part of larger safety measures at Fox, tweeting, “FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”Since then she has mostly used her Twitter account to encourage private companies to help fight the pandemic and cheer on the stock market during its rare rallies. Sean Hannity: Media Scared Trump Looks ‘Too Presidential’ in Coronavirus BriefingsRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Man Charged With Making Death Threats to Nancy Pelosi in Coronavirus Rant

Man Charged With Making Death Threats to Nancy Pelosi in Coronavirus RantA Texas man, ranting on social media about the congressional response to the coronavirus outbreak, has been charged with making death threats to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.Gavin Weslee Blake Perry, 27, of Wichita Falls, Texas, wrote on his personal Facebook page Monday that Pelosi was part of a satanic cult and that she and other Democrats should be killed, authorities said.The posts were still online as of Thursday night.Prosecutors said that Perry wrote, "If youre a dem or apart of the establishment in the democrats side I view you as a criminal and a terrorist and I advise everyone to Go SOS and use live rounds."The post, which used an abbreviation for "shoot on sight," included a screenshot of what appeared to be two tweets by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. One, by Schumer himself, was critical of President Donald Trump's handling of the health emergency.The second was written by someone impersonating Schumer and criticized Trump for barring travelers from entering the United States from China."Shoot to kill," Perry wrote, according to prosecutors. "This is a revolution."Perry was charged with transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce and faces up to five years in prison.Perry, who was arrested Wednesday and remains in custody, did not have a lawyer as of Thursday night, according to court records. He made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Northern Texas on Thursday via videoconference.His alleged screed came as Congress and the Trump administration were negotiating a $2 trillion stimulus package to reduce the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate approved the package Wednesday and it has advanced to the House.Prosecutors said that Perry told the law enforcement officers who arrested him that they were violating his First Amendment right to free speech and that their actions were punishable by death."The Department of Justice takes the security of our public servants seriously," Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for Northern Texas, said in a statement. "Americans are entitled to voice their opinions -- but we will not allow them to threaten our officials' physical safety."The threats against Pelosi were posted beneath an article from an anti-abortion website that Perry shared on Facebook."Nancy pelosi is apart of a santanic cult and so are rhe people who work closly with her," Perry wrote, according to prosecutors. "Dems of the establishment will be removed at any cost necessary and yes that means by death."Pelosi's office declined to comment, and Schumer's office said it could not immediately comment Thursday night.This month, a Connecticut man was arrested on charges that he threatened to kill Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who was the lead impeachment manager in the House. Several other Democratic lawmakers have faced similar death threats.Law enforcement officials said a concerned citizen tipped off local police about Perry's posts."The defendant threatened the life of an elected official and that will not be tolerated," Matthew J. DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge in Dallas, said in a statement.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

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China’s Lies, and Ours

China’s Lies, and OursThis is a tale of two governments. Both were faced with a potential disaster -- a new and deadly epidemic. Both made choices that the world will judge.China. The virus made its first appearance in a Wuhan “wet market,” an emporium (apparently common in China) that featured live and newly slaughtered animals in close proximity. SARS and avian flu are also thought to have originated in these markets, which amount to an ongoing threat to global health.From the first reported case, on December 1, 2019, until January 5, 2020, the Chinese government engaged in a cover-up. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty recounted, in early January, China’s National Health Commission forbade reporting on the new disease. On December 30, Dr. Li Wenliang sent a message to other physicians warning that a SARS-like illness was spreading. He was arrested (along with six others) and obliged to apologize for “spreading rumors.” (Dr. Li Wenliang died of COVID-19 on February 7.)Throughout early January, as cases mounted, the Chinese government issued soothing statements suggesting that the new pneumonia was not transmitted from person to person. As late as January 15, after Thailand and Japan had reported their first cases, official government sources were denying that human-to-human transmission had been proven, saying the risk was “low.”Only on January 23, six weeks after the first case, did China announce a quarantine of Wuhan. By that time, millions had come and gone from the city during the busy holiday season, and cases had been reported in Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.USA. President Trump engaged in a series of soothing statements himself. On January 22, after the first U.S. case was reported, he said “We have it totally under control.” On February 2, he boasted that “we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” Twice in February, the president promised that “when we get into April, in the warmer weather — that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus.” On February 26, when cases topped 60, Trump claimed that “we’re going very substantially down, not up.” In South Carolina, on February 28, Trump likened criticism of his handling of the pandemic to impeachment, saying “this is their new hoax.” On March 6, he continued this theme. Facing criticism for his false statement that “anyone who wants a test can get a test,” Trump tried to string together a “fake news”/Ukraine theme. He said the tests were “beautiful,” adding “The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?” Asked whether he was concerned about the virus’s spread on March 7, the president said “No, we’ve done a great job.”Throughout the first ten weeks of the pandemic, Trump praised China effusively, as The Bulwark’s Jim Swift chronicled. On February 7, for example, Trump said: “Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” A few days later, he shared with Fox News his view that “China is very, you know, professionally run, in the sense that they have everything under control. I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon.”China. When the lies were no longer tenable, the Chinese government pivoted. Through their propaganda arms, they circulated videos of China building new “hospitals” (they were actually “prefab quarantine wards,” not fully equipped hospitals) and fumigating public spaces. This was followed by grand gestures like donating millions of face masks to afflicted countries such as Spain, South Korea, Iran, and the Philippines. Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, shipped a million masks and half a million testing kits to the U.S.USA. When the lies were no longer tenable, President Trump pivoted. Two days after claiming that the disease was under control, Trump declared himself a “wartime president” and offered that “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Trump began to appear daily at press conferences with public-health authorities -- a setting he controls, in which every participant must begin with fulsome praise of himself. He pivoted on China too, dropping the unctuous praise in favor of provocative blame.China. Relentless propaganda lauding Premier Xi’s great leadership in fighting the coronavirus may succeed with many Chinese. Will the world remember the criminal dishonesty that arguably unleashed this pestilence?USA. By consistently downplaying and denying the seriousness of the threat, President Trump cost the American people precious time. By encouraging a false sense of security, he prevented the federal, state, and local governments from gearing up for the worst emergency we have faced in 100 years. Will the world remember the dishonesty that permitted this pestilence to hit us so very hard?© 2020

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How Donald Trump could use his coronavirus disaster to win reelection this November

In today’s absurd news, there’s this: 

#BREAKING Global News Exclusive: Trump looking to put troops near Canadian border amid coronavirus fears - National | @globalnews #cdnpoli #coronavirus #COVID19

— Mercedes Stephenson (@MercedesGlobal) March 26, 2020

Everything about that is stupid. Canadians have better health care and are giving better cash payments to individuals to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a massive border and there’s no way anyone can seal it, much less some poor sap in combat boots. Symbolically, it’s the world’s largest demilitarized border. Why mess with that? There's nothing useful or practical about it! Well, there’s one benefit to Donald Trump: He can pretend that he’s “doing something.”

Remember, everything Trump does is predicated on his reelection. That’s why he tried so hard to limit testing in the early days. Instead of working to stem the spread of the disease, he decided that rising numbers were a threat to his political standing and he reacted accordingly. You can see it in this new ad by the Joe Biden campaign: 

holy shit this @JoeBiden ad is good.

— Florida Chris (@chrislongview) March 26, 2020

The past month has been about minimizing the impact of the pandemic, promising that the numbers will fall, promising snake oil cures, dismissing it as “just like the flu,” and as of late, demanding that people get back to work because “the cure can’t be worse than the disease.” 

“The cure,” of course, being people losing their jobs, while “the disease” is people losing their lives. 

But there’s a method to the madness. Whether it’s closing the border, or comparing COVID-19 to the flu, or demanding people get back to work, it all has an underlying electoral purpose. Remember that solutions to the pandemic are liberal ones: government support of individuals, government intervention in the economy, better health care, better social safety net, communal action, etc. This isn’t 9/11, when conservatives could bloat the Pentagon budget even further, ride a new wave of racism, and curtail civil liberties. So how do Trump and the Republicans work this to their favor? 

Here’s what they’ll do (and they’re already doing it):


Oh my god, Trump can’t stop being the best leader the world has ever seen! Did you see? He closed the border to China. Biden didn’t want Trump to close the border to China, but he did so anyway, because that’s the bold kind of leadership that saved thousands of lives.  

Trump also closed the borders with Mexico and Canada and deployed our troops, because fuck yeah America is the greatest and so are our troops, and Trump is taking action while liberals want open borders. 

What about testing kits, shuttering the pandemic preparedness task force, and months of promising that things were “beautiful” and “perfect” and everything would be fine just around the corner? Those are nasty questions and Trump is too busy being decisive anyway to answer them. Next!


The flu will kill 60-80,000 people this year, and we didn’t shut down the economy because of it. Only a few hundred/thousand/tens of thousands have died because of this virus, and we had to destroy the economy as a result? This was just a liberal plot to defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. They were angry because the impeachment hoax failed, and they decided to punish the whole country as a result. 

Why do you think it’s Democratic governors that are closing their states? Republicans tried to keep America working, and Democrats took your jobs away to punish Donald Trump for being the best president in history. It’s their fault the economy is bad. Only Republicans can fix it. 


The Chinese created this virus and infected America with it. No one could’ve predicted that our enemies would be so ruthless and calculating and effective in conducting a biological attack on our country. It’s their fault. We need Republicans to stand tough against the Chinese for their cowardly attack on our soil. 


If liberals and their sanctuary cities weren’t so “welcoming” to all manners of riff-raff, the disease wouldn’t have spread throughout America. Where did the “Chinese virus” take hold? Seattle. San Francisco. New York. It figures that those liberals would infect the rest of Real America with their virus. Trump is trying to protect the Heartland from the evils of urban liberals.

So yeah, that’s their campaign. It’s already started. The pieces are already in place. And when you see a conservative or Trump say something seemingly insane, note how it fits one of those categories above. For example:

�Approximately 7500 people die every day in the United States. That�s approximately 645,000 people so far this year. Coronavirus has killed about 1,000 Americans this year. Just a little perspective.� @RealCandaceO

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) March 26, 2020


Will it play with their base? Undoubtedly. They’re too stupid for words. 

Will it play with Democrats? Clearly not. 

Will it play with Independents? Well, “independent” is not an ideology, and spans everything from Alex Jones crazies to Bernie socialists to the politically apathetic. We do know that government (read: Trump) approval ratings for managing the crisis are ebbing down among independents. 

So maybe it won’t work, in the aggregate, amongst that group. 

The one wild card is the death rate. If coronavirus deaths remain below or equal to flu deaths, then the argument that the Democrats blew up the economy for no reason will have added salience to the stupidity. So for that reason alone, you’d think that Trump would be working overtime to bend the curve. Yet he’s doing quite the opposite, in fact. It boggles the mind. 

Stem the death toll, and Trump has a ready-made excuse for the shitty economy: The Democrats overreacted. Instead, his actions are pushing us closer to the nightmare scenario. For example, look at what happens if Florida doesn’t take action within the next couple of weeks:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is among the fiercest Trump allies, and will not do anything to contradict or undermine the impeached president’s words and actions. So we’re talking somewhere in between “no action” and “social distancing.” No matter what happens in New York and California (fiercely working to stop the spread of the disease), Florida alone may be Trump’s undoing. Even if those numbers are overly dire, one-third of the “social distancing” death toll is a horrifying 100,000. With numbers like that, Trump and the GOP won’t be able to compare COVID-19 to the flu anymore. 

Furthermore, the more the disease ravages red states and rural America, the harder it’ll be to dismiss it as a creation of New York City and San Francisco. Oh, they’ll try anyway! But local politicians will bear the brunt of explaining why they didn’t take the necessary precautions, especially if small-state death tolls end up exceeding those of New York and California—which is quite plausible. 

For example, the models that drive the projections estimate that California’s death toll, with its shelter-in-place already in action, will be around 11,000. Meanwhile, Missouri, which hasn’t taken any action at all, could see up to 122,000, Oklahoma could see 79,000 deaths, and Tennessee 136,000. As horrific as things look in New York right now, measures in place may limit the damage to 38,000. (California looks as good as it does because it was the first to start shutting down, particularly the five pioneering Bay Area counties that beat anyone else by almost a week.) 

In any case, if we see that kind of death toll play out around the country, Trump’s goose is cooked, and so is his entire party. Otherwise, whether by luck (a vaccine or better treatment emerges), or by action (militarizing the Canadian border stops the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas!), Republicans will use that mix of liberal-blamin’, big-city-hatin’, racism creatin’, and grandiose Trump myth-makin’, to explain away the economic collapse, and pin the blame squarely on the Democrats. 

Democrats delayed stimulus bill to tighten ban on Trump family profiting

The Senate was about to approve the largest recovery bill in U.S. history on Wednesday night when Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit pause, realizing something was missing — revised language designed to bar President Donald Trump from getting money for his own businesses.

Democrats and Republicans had already agreed to a rewritten clause, but the update had somehow not made it into the final printed legislation, according to two people familiar with the situation.

For two hours, Schumer and fellow Democrats held up the bill — written to boost a faltering economy amid the coronavirus outbreak — while the stricter language was inserted. The Senate passed the $2 trillion package just before midnight.

The change was meant to close a loophole in the original clause that barred loans to businesses that were at least 20 percent owned by presidents or their children, spouses and in-laws. The updated language extended the ban to businesses in which several family members collectively have a 20 percent stake, even if each person's individual stake is below the 20 percent threshold.

For Democrats, it was a small victory after three years of fruitless efforts to block Trump from linking his private business interests with America’s highest public office.

“Now is a time to come together as a nation to provide a desperately needed lifeline to American families," said House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y). "It is not time to bail out the private businesses of President Trump and his family or any other top policymakers."

The Trump family business interests have not been immune from the economic devastation that has blanketed the country. Hotels and tourism have been among the hardest-hit industries, and the president's properties have suffered. Across the country, his hotels and resorts have either partially or completely shut their doors, likely costing his family millions of dollars even as they lay off thousands of employees.

Mar-a-Lago, Trump's South Florida home away from the White House, has closed. The restaurant at Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering spot for candidates, lobbyists and congressional aides, isn't serving food or drinks. And the spa at the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York is not accepting customers.

“Various facilities are temporarily closed given local, state and federal mandates,” a Trump Organization spokesman said. “We anxiously await the day when this pandemic is over and our world-class facilities can reopen.”

Trump, who has met with various industries looking for bailouts, including hospitality executives, has said he would like to re-open businesses by mid-April, despite public health officials warning that much more time is needed.

Some of Trump's properties were initially slow to respond to government calls to limit business activities that involved large gatherings of people. Some kept advertising banquets and spa services, for instance. Other properties remain open in a limited capacity and are still promoting some activities, such as rounds of golf.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington remains open even though only about 5 percent of its rooms are occupied, according to John Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of the D.C. affiliate of Unite Here, which represents 172 employees at the hotel. About 160 employees, including bartenders, housekeepers, doormen, were laid off, he said.

Earlier this week, Trump didn't rule out accepting the taxpayer money from the expected stimulus package.

“Let’s just see what happens because we have to save some of these great companies that can be great companies literally in a matter of weeks," he said. "We have to save them."

The White House and Trump Organization did not respond to questions on Thursday.

Schumer pushed the original provision about the president's businesses during negotiations with Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Both sides later agreed to change the language to address the collective ownership issue.

Yet the tweak was somehow missing from the final bill. A Republican source familiar with the situation said it was an oversight and that both sides were fine with the updated language.

“To suggest it is anything other than a clerical error is wrong,” the person said.

The clause doesn’t just address the president. It also pertains to the vice president, the heads of executive departments and members of Congress.

The new language was designed to prevent Trump, his adult children, Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric, or even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is also personally wealthy, from selling their stake in a company to a family member to escape the bill's restrictions.

The bill also was missing a second provision that Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had pushed, indicating that the Treasury Department had to publish the companies receiving the loans every seven days.

“We told Republicans it was unacceptable to omit strict prohibitions on Trump businesses having access to the Treasury lending, as well as critical transparency measures, and that we would hold up the bill until they included them in the final text,” Schumer told POLITICO. “They relented and these important accountability provisions were successfully added to the final bill.”

Some House Democrats and numerous watchdog groups have been arguing for three years that Trump is violating the Constitution's little-used emoluments clauses, which forbids presidents from receiving gifts from foreign governments or money from U.S. taxpayers beyond their salaries.

Before he was sworn into office, Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his namesake company, which is comprised of more than 500 businesses. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit. He can withdraw money from it at any time without the public’s knowledge.

Shortly after Democrats took control of the House, they launched investigations into whether the arrangement violated the emoluments clause. But lawmakers eventually cut the allegations out of their articles of impeachment, choosing to narrowly focus on Trump pushing Ukraine to open an inquiry into Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

“The fact that President Trump accepts payments from foreign governments and corporate lobbyists who are willing to spend money at his hotels is a massive scandal hiding in plain sight," said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump's Washington hotel. "Taxpayers should not be forced to partake in it. This provision is one way to stop that.”

The Trump Organization has responded to the scrutiny by donating $350,000 to the U.S. Treasury that it said came from foreign governments. But watchdog groups say there is little accountability and that the amount should be higher.

Trump denies he is using the presidency to promote his resorts and claims he receives unfair scrutiny because of the "phony emoluments clause.” It's a defense that his critics dismiss, noting how often Trump discusses and stays at his own properties.

“Every decision made by this president has been tainted by his rampant conflicts of interest. His unwillingness to divest from his properties and his abuse of taxpayer dollars at Trump properties necessitated this action," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a House Oversight Committee member.

The Senate provision won’t completely prevent Trump businesses from getting money. They could still be eligible for small-business loans or benefit through a $15 billion change to the tax code. And the provision also doesn’t cover the many businesses branded or managed by Trump, but not owned by the family.

“This provision helps ensure President Trump and his family can’t benefit from coronavirus pandemic, but there are some loopholes,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, an advocacy group that works closely with House committee staffers. “They could benefit in indirect ways.”

The Senate unanimously approved the $2 trillion emergency package after more than five days of negotiations. The House is expected to pass it soon. The legislation will authorize direct checks to many Americans, a massive fund for beleaguered industries, immediate aid for hospitals and back-up cash for state and local governments.

Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.

Posted in Uncategorized

Morning Digest: Coronavirus leaves Virginia GOP unsure how to hold House nominating conventions

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Public Service Announcement: If you haven't yet filled out the 2020 census, please do so by clicking here to do it online, by mail, or by phone. This way, census workers won't have to come to your door. The Census Bureau advises completing the census now even if you haven't received your 12-digit census ID by mail.

Leading Off

VA-05, VA-07: Republicans in Virginia’s 5th and 7th Congressional Districts had planned to pick their nominees at April 25 party conventions, rather than in June's primary, but Republicans leaders are still deciding how to proceed in light of the coronavirus.

All of this uncertainty is causing plenty of angst in the 5th District, where freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a challenge from the right from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good. Riggleman even speculated to Roll Call that, if the process gets out of hand, Team Red won’t even have a nominee in this 53-42 Trump seat. National Republicans will also be keeping a close eye on the 7th District, where plenty of candidates are competing for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Campaign Action

For now, the only things that anyone knows are that the April 25 conventions won’t be happening as planned, but that Republican voters in these two seats still won’t be selecting their candidates through a primary. The 5th District GOP recently posted a memo saying that it's not permissible at this point to switch from nominating candidates at a convention to the state-run primary, which is on June 9.

Ben Slone, who runs the 7th District GOP, told Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin that his group would discuss what to do on Thursday. All he would say about alternatives to the convention, though, was, “We have a set of contingency plans that will be invoked depending on guidance and government health dictates.”

Melvin Adams, who runs the 5th District GOP committee, also told Akin that they would be talking next week about moving the convention date, and he was more forthcoming with his plans. Adams said that he’d hoped to move the event to June 6, which is the weekend before the statewide primary.

However, Riggleman and his supporters say that Adams has been promoting another option if it’s still not safe to hold a convention by then, and it’s not one they like at all. Riggleman said the 5th District Republican Committee, which has fewer than 40 members, could end up picking the party’s nominee, and Adams didn’t deny that this was a possibility. Indeed, this is how Riggleman got chosen as Team Red’s candidate two years ago after Rep. Tom Garrett ended his campaign after winning renomination. That was a very different set of circumstances, though, and an unnamed Riggleman ally on the committee said that, if this ends up happening this year, “I think it would be unfair. It’s a very undemocratic process.”

There’s another huge potential drawback to using this method. Riggleman said that party rules require a candidate to earn the support of at least two-thirds of the district committee, which raises the possibility that no one could end up with the GOP nod. And even if someone claims a supermajority, the congressman argued, it’s possible that the state Republican Party won’t recognize this person as the rightful nominee. Indeed, an unnamed former state party official told Roll Call that the committee only picked the candidate last cycle because their nominee had dropped out, and that “[c]hanging to a process where Republican voters don’t have a voice would be against the party plan and potentially against state law.”

Riggleman himself sounds quite unhappy with this whole state of affairs, saying that he wanted a primary instead of “a convoluted convention process that is collapsing under the weight of this crisis.” Riggleman already had reasons to be wary about party leaders, rather than voters, choosing the nominee here. The congressman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against him, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. It also didn’t escape notice that the convention was supposed to be held at Good’s church.

Riggleman’s path to a second term could be even more perilous if the 5th District Committee ends up choosing the nominee, especially since its chairman sounds very frustrated with him. “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things,” Adams said. “This committee is not trying to rig things.”

Democrats, by contrast, opted to hold a traditional primary in June, and so Team Blue doesn’t have anything like the mess that’s haunting the 5th District GOP. Democrats have several notable contenders running here, and while it will still be tough to flip a seat that Trump won by double digits, GOP infighting could give the eventual nominee more of an opening.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska's Republican-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would allow Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer to order that the state's Aug. 18 downballot primaries be conducted entirely by mail. (The lieutenant governor is Alaska's chief election official.) However, Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to require that the state provide dropboxes where voters can return their ballots, an option that is very popular in states that have adopted universal voting by mail, in part because it obviates the need for a postage stamp and avoids the risk of delayed mail return service.

The bill now goes to the state House, which is controlled by a Democratic-led coalition that includes Republicans and independents. The Alaska Daily News says that Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is "expected" to sign the measure "speedily" if both chambers pass it.

Indiana: Indiana's bipartisan Election Commission has unanimously waived the state's requirement that voters who wish to vote absentee in June's presidential and downballot primaries provide an excuse in order to do so.

Nebraska: Election officials in Nebraska say there are no plans to delay the state's May 12 presidential and downballot primaries, but at least half a dozen counties—including the three largest—will send absentee ballot applications to all voters, while a number of other small counties had previously moved to all-mail elections prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In all, more than half the state will either receive absentee applications or mail-in ballots, including all voters in the state's 2nd Congressional District, a competitive district that features a multi-way Democratic primary.

Nevada: Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and local election officials from all 17 Nevada counties have announced plans to conduct the state's June 9 downballot primaries almost entirely by mail. Every active registered voter will be sent a postage-paid absentee ballot that they can return by mail or at an in-person polling site, of which each county will have at least one. Importantly, these voters will not have to request an a ballot. At least one in-person polling place will also be available in each county.

Ballots must be postmarked or turned in by Election Day, though they will still count as long as they are received up to seven days later. Officials will also contact any voter whose ballot has an issue (such as a missing signature), and voters will have until the seventh day after the election to correct any problems. Cegavske's press release wisely cautions that, under this system, final election results will not be known until well after election night, though this is a point that officials across the country will have to emphasize loudly and repeatedly as mail voting becomes more widespread.

One potential issue with Cegavske's plan, though, is that registered voters who are listed as "inactive" on the voter rolls will not be sent ballots. However, as voting expert Michael McDonald notes, these voters are still eligible to vote, and every election, many do. While they can still request absentee ballots on their own, they now face an obstacle that active voters will not. Approximately 14% of Nevada's 1.8 million registered voters are on inactive status.

Ohio: Lawmakers in Ohio's Republican-run legislature unanimously passed a bill extending the time to vote by mail in the state's presidential and downballot primaries until April 28, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has said he will sign it "soon." There would be limited in-person voting only for people with disabilities or special needs, and voters would also be able to drop off absentee ballots in person on that day, but ballots would have to be mailed by April 27 and be received by May 8 in order to count. However, voting rights groups have expressed serious reservations about the plan and say they may sue.

Under the bill, the state would send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in—they cannot be submitted online. They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots (though these at least would come with a postage-paid envelope).

Voting rights advocate Mike Brickner notes that there is very little time left to carry out this multi-step process, particularly because each piece of mail would be in transit for several days. In addition, printing all of these materials, including the postcards that are designed to kick off this effort, will take considerable time, especially since government offices, the postal service, and print shops "may not be operating optimally," as Brickner observes.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania's Republican-run legislature has unanimously passed a bill to move the state's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign the measure.

Wisconsin: The city of Green Bay has filed a lawsuit asking that a federal judge order Wisconsin officials to delay the state's April 7 elections until June 2 and to extend its voter registration deadline to May 1. (The deadline for registering by mail has already passed, but voters can still register online through March 30 thanks to an earlier order by a different judge.) Green Bay has also asked that it be allowed to cancel in-person voting and mail ballots to all registered voters.


MI-Sen: The GOP firm Marketing Resource Group is out with a new survey giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-35 lead over Republican John James, which is an improvement from the incumbent's 43-40 edge in October. The only other poll we've seen this month was an early March survey from the GOP firms 0ptimus and Firehouse Strategies that gave James a 41-40 advantage.

ME-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward has announced that it's launched a new six-figure ad campaign supporting state House Speaker Sara Gideon. The spot praises Gideon's work securing millions for coronavirus testing, as well as workers and small businesses.

SC-Sen: Democrat Jaime Harrison is out with a poll from Brilliant Corners that shows GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham leading him by a small 47-43 margin. The only other survey we've seen in the last few weeks was a late February Marist poll that showed Graham up 54-37.


WV-Gov: The GOP firm Medium Buying reports that GOP Gov. Jim Justice launched his first ad of 2020 last week, and we now have a copy of his commercial. The ad begins with a clip of Donald Trump at a rally saying, "My good friend, and your governor, Jim Justice," before the narrator jumps in and praises the incumbent as a conservative Trump ally.

Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, by contrast, has been running commercials since June of last year, and he's out with another one ahead of the May GOP primary. Thrasher tells the audience that the coronavirus is creating hardships for West Virginia, and that the state "needs to be proactive in terms of its reaction to this crisis, not reactive the way we have been so many other times." Thrasher then lays out his plan for helping the state economically during the pandemic.

Thrasher doesn't mention, much less directly criticize, Justice's handling of the situation, but he still argues that the state isn't doing enough. "Our president is being very proactive in terms of dealing with those issues," Thrasher says, "We need to follow suit and be proactive as well." He concludes, "It's time for the state of West Virginia to get something done."


IN-05: In an unusual move, retiring Rep. Susan Brooks' office publicly told businesswoman Beth Henderson to stop saying that Brooks had recruited her or even given her any special encouragement to run at all. "Susan talked with all Republican candidates who called her and expressed an interest in running in the 5th District to share her insights about representing this district," a Brooks aide said. "Some candidates did not call her." Brooks has not taken sides in the crowded June GOP primary to succeed her.

However, Henderson made it sound like the congresswoman was pulling for her back in February when she declared, "Susan Brooks encouraged me to run." The candidate put out a statement this week insisting that she and Brooks "have had a couple conversations regarding the Fifth district. She has been encouraging throughout my campaign, as I imagine she has been with other candidates as well."

The Indianapolis Star also obtained a voicemail from an unidentified person raising money for the Henderson campaign who said, "Susan actually recruited Beth to run for her, and we are working hard to raise funds to ensure that that happened." Henderson's team acknowledged that this person was affiliated with the campaign but insisted that none of that was included in the script that caller was given.

MI-13: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced Wednesday that she would seek a primary rematch against Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most high-profile members of the House freshman class. Jones, who briefly held this seat for a few weeks in the lame-duck session of the last Congress (more on that later), kicked off her campaign with a video declaring that she was “running for re-election” to this safely blue seat.

While Jones didn’t mention Tlaib in that message, she argued in a new interview with the Detroit News that her opponent has “spent a lot of her energy in places other than the 13th District.” Jones said that, unlike the congresswoman, “I will be totally focused on the 13th District, being the third-poorest district in the United States.”

Jones and Tlaib have a lot of history. Thanks to some very unusual circumstances, they even faced off three separate times in 2018. That August, Michigan held two different Democratic primaries on the same day for this seat: one for a special election for the final months of former Rep. John Conyers' term, and one for the regular two-year term. Jones had the support of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and some unions, but she had trouble raising money. Tlaib, by contrast, didn’t have as many prominent local endorsements, but she decisively outraised each of her many opponents.

Tlaib narrowly beat Jones 31-30 in the six-way primary for the full term. However, there were only four candidates on the ballot in the special election primary, and in that race, it was Jones who edged Tlaib 38-36.

The two candidates who were only on the ballot for the regular term, state Sen. Coleman Young II and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, took a combined 18% of the vote, so their absence in the special primary likely had an impact. Jones, Young, and Jackson, along with more than half the district's residents, are black, while Tlaib is of Palestinian descent (only 4% of residents identify as Arab American). It's therefore probable that the presence of two additional African American candidates in the regular primary but not in the special primary made the difference between the two close outcomes.

Jones, however, didn't relish the idea of serving just a few weeks in the House and wound up launching a last-minute write-in campaign against Tlaib for the general election. It was a misguided move, though, as she took just 0.32% of the vote. Jones and then-Speaker Paul Ryan ended up working out an apparently unprecedented agreement that allowed Jones to serve a few weeks in the House without resigning as head of the Detroit City Council, letting her take a hiatus from that post until Tlaib was sworn in in January of 2019.

Tlaib immediately earned national attention on her first day in office when she said of Donald Trump, "[W]e're going to impeach the motherfucker," and she’s been in the headlines plenty since then. Most notably, Trump targeted Tlaib and the three other women of color who make up “The Squad” with a racist tweet in July. Thanks to her celebrity, Tlaib has done well in raising money from progressives across the country, ending last year with a hefty $1.2 million on-hand.

Tlaib, who has been a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate, has her share of intra-party critics and recently inflamed some of them when she booed Hillary Clinton at a Sanders campaign event in January in Iowa. Jones, however, has her own issues, particularly as a longtime supporter of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam, even sharing the stage with him at a 2017 event in Detroit.

If Jones has any reservations about Farrakhan—whose lowlight reel includes gems like, “The Jewish media has normalized sexual degeneracy, profanity, and all kinds of sin,” and, “In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?"—she hasn't put them on display. Rather, just last month, her chief of staff said that Jones was sponsoring a resolution commending Farrakhan’s newspaper, which ran a piece Farrakhan wrote in 2016 saying that the Sept. 11 attacks were “a false flag operation,” for its “truthful articles.” For his part, Farrakhan himself singled Jones out for praise in a speech in Detroit two years ago.

TN-01: State Rep. Timothy Hill announced on Tuesday that he was joining the August GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Hill has served in the state legislature for four terms, and he's risen to become chair of the Commerce Committee.

Inside the 10 days to rescue the economy

It was going to cost $1 trillion.

Late on March 16, five days after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Larry Kudlow — the one-time cable news talker turned top economic advisor to President Donald Trump — was in the Senate’s historic Mansfield room, telling a group of senior GOP senators something they didn’t want to hear.

The U.S. economy was going to need a lot of help — and fast. Americans faced dire consequences if Congress didn’t act quickly, warned Kudlow, alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. The senators were stunned and dismayed.

Ten days later, the price tag for the Senate’s coronavirus economic rescue package has ballooned to more than $2 trillion, twice what Kudlow initially suggested, making it by far the most expensive spending bill in history.

The legislation — which passed the Senate by a unanimous, 96-0 vote late Wednesday and is expected to easily be approved by the House — provides direct payments to millions of individual Americans, dramatically expands unemployment insurance for workers forced out of their jobs by the crisis, and allocates hundreds of billions of dollars to distressed industries, hospitals and small businesses, as well as dozens of other provisions.

Senators in both parties hailed the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, as a major achievement, especially considering the extraordinary circumstances — a largely deserted Capitol, senators huddled in self-quarantine and a country slowly shutting down to save itself from even more suffering.

“It's a proud moment for the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview with POLITICO. “We responded to the way the American people are acting among themselves by helping each other and putting whatever past grievances they have behind and trying to work together to get this behind us.”

But the process wasn’t always pretty.

At one point, the “Big 4” congressional leaders — McConnell, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — squabbled with each other during a meeting in McConnell’s office, and there remains resentment among the quartet.

Senators attacked each other in surprisingly personal terms on the floor, accusing one another of playing politics while the country suffered. Senate Republicans complained bitterly in private when Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky revealed that he was tested for the coronavirus but had spent several days huddling with his colleagues, even swimming in the Senate’s pool the morning he received his positive diagnosis.

There were several setbacks and reversals in the “Phase 3” stimulus talks, interminably long late-night meetings that ended with little visible progress, and tedious reviews of legislative language in order to make sure one side wasn’t trying to slip something past the other — all of which dragged out a final vote days after many expected it to take place.

Schumer played a central role in the drama, serving as the lead Democratic negotiator and huddling for hours in his office with Mnuchin. And Mnuchin once again emerged as the go-to official for the Trump White House when it comes to negotiating with congressional Democrats. By the end of their discussions, the two referred to each other as “Chuck and Steven.”

“It’s one of the most major pieces of legislation we’ve done,” Schumer said in an interview. “I guess there are only a few other moments, I suppose. Obamacare. But otherwise you can’t think of something so major since the Great Society, Lyndon Johnson…”

How the typically-slow moving Senate went from nothing to a $2 trillion-plus emergency rescue package in just 10 days is a reflection of what senators described as a “snowball effect,” set into motion by the rapid spread of the virus and the cascading economic effect of business and school closures, dwindling airline traffic, and “stay-at-home” orders issued by officials in some of the nation’s largest cities and states. Plus, it took a whole lot of cash to make everyone happy.

“We have been totally inoperational for the last several years,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “And I’m very glad that we were able to step up and pass several major pieces of legislation that may end up saving the country from catastrophe.”

Who got what

In a sign that the agreement may actually be a true compromise, both sides are claiming they got what they wanted all along.

McConnell described the final product as a “Republican-leaning bill” that meets his “four pillars”: aid to small businesses, direct cash payments, loans to companies in distressed industries, and money to fund the medical response to the coronavirus crisis. McConnell also kept Pelosi out of the early round of negotiations, despite pressure from her and Schumer to be involved in the talks. McConnell had been unhappy about how Mnuchin and Pelosi collaborated on the previous coronavirus response bill (known as “Phase 2” on the Hill), and he wasn’t going to repeat that process.

Schumer, for his part, boasts that Democrats negotiated key provisions to implement unemployment insurance “on steroids” and provide necessary oversight over federal loans to corporations, as well as securing tens of billions of dollars for hospitals as part of a so-called “Marshall Plan” for the health-care system.

“If this is a Republican bill, then I welcome the big-government, government-must-help-people, the big-government Republican Party,” Schumer quipped. “When you have a major crisis like this, the Republican mantra of ‘Let the private sector solve everything’ just won’t work, and you need large government involvement. And that’s what gave us an intrinsic advantage.”

Schumer and Democrats also pushed to create a separate fund for beleaguered state governments that have seen their revenue plummet. Democrats won $150 billion for the state fund, though they initially sought a whopping $750 billion.

Another concession for Democrats was a provision that prohibits businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive branch departments from receiving loans from the Treasury Department. It also bars their children, spouses and in-laws from receiving such benefits. Some Senate insiders referred to this as the “Kushner Amendment,” after senior White House adviser — and presidential son-in-law — Jared Kushner.

Republicans, though, said the final bill largely reflects the proposed legislation they introduced on Saturday, despite the ensuing several days of partisan battles. GOP aides noted the final package retains largely the same unemployment insurance and direct payments schemes originally outlined. The section on small-business loans is intact, and the GOP won fights barring Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other non-profits. There’s more than $23 billion in aid for farmers that Republicans sought. They also spurned Democratic efforts to cut ICE funding.

However, Democrats secured language establishing an inspector general and a congressional panel to oversee the $500 billion “Exchange Stabilization Fund” run by the Treasury Department, which will make loans to corporations and municipalities. But Republicans blocked subpoena power from being granted to the oversight board of what critics on the left and right are calling a “slush fund.”

“Certainly the Democrats were not ignored. They can't be, you can’t pass things one party only here,” McConnell said, alluding to the Senate’s 60 vote-threshold. “But this is a bill that was largely, not entirely but largely, produced by Republicans in consultation with the Democratic minority. “

But the debate over the massive stimulus package blurred ideological lines from the start. For example, it was Republicans, not Democrats, who first proposed sending checks directly to millions of Americans, an anathema to conservative doctrine. As lawmakers saw the death toll rise and witnessed confirmed coronavirus cases and unemployment claims skyrocket, it was clear that they had to take drastic action soon, meaning political pragmatism overwhelmed ideological concerns.

That meant Congress ended up doing what Congress does best: spending money.

McConnell's task forces

Even as the Senate was finishing work on a $100 billion, “Phase 2” coronavirus bill, Mnuchin warned Republicans at the March 17 meeting that unemployment rates could spike to 20 percent or more unless the Senate passed an even bigger bill to aid the economy. Mnuchin later walked the comments back when the frightening estimates became public, but Trump was pushing McConnell and Mnuchin for quick action.

Yet the Senate as an institution has perhaps never been so poorly equipped to handle a crisis of this magnitude quickly. The chamber has largely abdicated much of its authority, be it on oversight or foreign policy, in the Trump era. And the bitterness over Trump’s impeachment trial — which ended on Feb. 5 — remains very fresh. That the Senate was able to rise above those circumstances is a reflection of the seriousness of the crisis itself.

“What’s this country going to look like two weeks from now? Just look how much it has changed in 10 days. Imagine another five,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “What we’re dealing with here is not some ordinary ideological debate during ordinary times or even during an economic downturn. It is a catastrophic collapse of the economy via government fiat.”

On March 17, Schumer proposed a “big and bold” $750 billion plan to “fight the coronavirus epidemic and economic crisis,” although the proposal contained more broad strokes than policy details. Schumer was aiming to stake out a position before McConnell and the Republicans announced their own proposal, seeking a way to increase his bargaining power. Much of the Democratic thrust would go toward beefing up the unemployment system, which already existed on the ground in all 50 states and could target those Americans who had recently lost jobs.

But McConnell and Senate Republicans had their own vision for what a coronavirus proposal would look like. The effort largely centered on hundreds of billions in direct payments to individual Americans, with checks being cut by the IRS. A one-time $1,200 payment would go out in weeks.

On March 19, McConnell rolled out his $1 trillion economic proposal that featured the direct-payments provision favored by Senate GOP leaders and the White House. But some Republicans objected to that effort, seeing beefed-up unemployment payments as a better option. Other GOP senators said the proposal unfairly cut out lower-income taxpayers. Democrats rejected the proposal as well.

In order to negotiate with the Democrats — and to help him control the process — McConnell created four bipartisan “task forces” to hash out issues and begin drafting language. McConnell told senators to work at “warp speed” and vowed to keep the Senate in session until a bill was passed. He called for passage of a completed package by Monday, setting up procedural votes for the weekend. It was a hugely ambitious schedule, and Republicans praised McConnell's accelerated timetable.

The task force roster included Rubio and Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa). By Thursday, they had a $1 trillion GOP proposal in hand and were ready to meet with their Democratic counterparts.

On the Democratic side were Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Patty Murray (Wash.)

Starting on March 20, Republicans and Democrats proceeded to huddle in the Senate Finance Committee offices in the Dirksen Office Building, trying to hammer out language on several fronts, including small business loans, unemployment insurance, hospital assistance and money for distressed industries.

"The bottom line was Democrats were going to insist on four months and the $600 more per week on top of existing benefits," said Wyden, who stayed in close touch with Schumer.

A key portion of the final bill, a $377 billion fund to provide loans to small businesses, started out at just a fraction of that amount when senators began negotiating — around $40 billion. Rubio, who chairs the Senate Small Business Committee, said it became clear over time that in order for it to be effective, the package would have to cost “multiples of that,” especially if the Senate was unable to convene as a whole for a long period of time.

“We’re now one day, one hour, one diagnosis away from a significant percentage of the Senate being quarantined and being unable to act,” Rubio said. “What happens if 20 people get knocked out into a quarantine, or 30? Suddenly you have problems bringing people together to actually pass something, to function, given our current rules.”

Paul and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) were in self-quarantine and missed the vote, while Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) was "under the weather" with a cold.

One idea that got little play was Trump’s call for a payroll tax cut, a potentially hugely expensive move. Democrats were uniformly against it, and several Republicans expressed reservations about the plan, questioning whether it would help workers who needed federal assistance the most.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who initially proposed the idea to Trump, said the payroll tax cut quickly fell through the cracks because it became clear that such a proposal couldn’t muster bipartisan support.

“The bottom line is it didn’t have enough Republicans and Democrats to put that on the table as something that both sides would agree to. Because we needed to move quickly,” Daines said. “Every hour mattered.”

No deal was reached on Friday despite what both sides agreed was considerable progress. After meeting again on Saturday — with Mnuchin shuttling between groups of senators while talking to Trump in between — McConnell convened a GOP leadership meeting. When it was clear no deal was going to happen that day, McConnell called a halt in the negotiations late that afternoon. Republicans would draft a new bill, incorporating ideas raised in the task-force sessions plus the original GOP proposal. That new “compromise” legislation would be released Sunday, ahead of a scheduled cloture vote to move forward on the measure.

Pelosi joins the fray

On Saturday night, Pelosi returned to Washington after a week in San Francisco. She and Schumer were upset that McConnell had cut off bipartisan negotiations the previous day and introduced a GOP-drafted package. While the legislation reflected much of the bipartisan talks senators had held, it was clear McConnell counted on Democrats feeling pressure to vote “yes” on the motion and continue negotiating until they could reach a final agreement.

But during the “Big 4” meeting, Pelosi told McConnell that the House Democrats were writing their own bill and it was incompatible with the Senate GOP plan.

“The two animals couldn’t mate,” Pelosi told the Republicans.

Schumer also objected to the GOP proposal, saying it wasn’t going to win Democratic support.

McConnell was furious with Pelosi, but Senate Democrats easily filibustered the attempt to advance the bill. They did the same on Monday as well. GOP leaders lashed out at Pelosi for the delay, but Schumer insisted he didn't have to do much lobbying to keep his members in line.

“I think the Senate was ready to go. And Pelosi threw a wrench in the machine,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership. “I really got the impression that the Democrats in the Senate had the sense of urgency. But Nancy had a different view and Schumer connected with her, and that kind of took it off the rails.”

Democrats vehemently disagree with that characterization, and they argue McConnell got ahead of himself by announcing Saturday night there was a bipartisan agreement.

“The Republicans kind of pulled back from the working groups. They started writing language that wasn’t broadly shared with Democrats and by Saturday night there was real alarm about where is this all going,” recalled Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who helped negotiate the bill’s small business provisions.

The impasse led to several hours of bitter sniping on the Senate floor on Monday, with normally low-key senators exploding in anger toward each other. Both sides accused the other of trying to include provisions that had nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus outbreak or rescuing the economy. Republicans sought money for a sexual abstinence program, for instance, while Democrats pushed for limits on greenhouse gas emissions and more collective bargaining power for unions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin  and President Donald Trump take part in the daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday at the White House.

Mnuchin’s moment

Trump had tapped Mnuchin along with Ueland to lead the negotiations with congressional Democrats and Republicans. The Treasury chief spent marathon sessions at the Capitol, day and night, shuttling between meetings with McConnell and Schumer and spending time in his own makeshift hideaway off the Senate floor.

“Look, this was non-stop work for five days. Every night we thought we’d get it done, starting with Sunday night. But that’s not really how the Senate works,” said an official close to Mnuchin. “So he’d stay till midnight and the junior lawyers and staffers would keep working on language on what had been agreed to and hadn’t till 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Mnuchin was perhaps the only senior Trump administration official who could have spearheaded the talks.

Trump hasn’t spoken with Pelosi in more than five months, and their relationship is more frayed than ever, especially after Pelosi led the effort to impeach the president. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who is leaving soon, has been largely sidelined, while Vice President Mike Pence is running the coronavirus task force.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, has been engaged in direct talks with Mnuchin over the past week. Leahy recalled a recent meeting he had with Mnuchin and Mulvaney.

“Very good discussions with Secretary Mnuchin,” Leahy recalled. “And then they asked me about Mulvaney and I said, ‘Very good discussions with Secretary Mnuchin.’ And that’s what it’s been now.”

So it fell to Mnuchin, who cut deals with Pelosi over a year-long budget agreement, as well as the previous $100 billion coronavirus response bill, to close the deal.

A person close to Mnuchin also noted that the secretary benefited from sharing Trump’s general disdain for hardline ideological positions. Mnuchin learned during the highly partisan tax reform debate in 2017 that building relationships with congressional Democrats really mattered — as did being viewed as speaking directly for Trump, to the limited extent that anyone but Trump himself can do that.

After the Monday cloture vote failed, Mnuchin and Ueland once again began going back-and-forth between McConnell and Schumer’s office on the second floor of the Capitol. A deal was possible, but McConnell and Mnuchin knew that Schumer had shown twice he could keep Democrats in line. They had to make some concessions.

Mnuchin and Schumer worked late into the night on Monday, with Mnuchin agreeing to an oversight board for the $500 billion fund to help distressed corporations. Mnuchin also agreed to tens of billions of dollars for hospitals, another key issue. Democrats were upset that the unemployment payments for coronavirus-related layoffs only covered three months, not four. Republicans gave ground on that as well, although they privately had said that was their intention all along.

Mnuchin and Schumer ended the night saying they were “very, very close,” and both predicted a deal on Tuesday.

The following day, Wall Street soared, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 11 percent, its second biggest day ever. The mood in the Capitol changed dramatically.

Tuesday brought another long round of talks between Mnuchin, Schumer and McConnell, with aid to states a key battleground. Republicans agreed to $150 billion for the “State Stabilization Fund” fund, above where they started but far under what Democrats sought.

At 1:37 a.m. on Wednesday, Mnuchin and Schumer announced they had a deal.

“The president said I got to live in the LBJ room for the last five days, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the unprecedented response from the Senate to protect American workers and American business in this situation,” Mnuchin said at the White House on Wednesday.

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. A handful of Republican senators initially balked at the expanded unemployment provisions in the agreement, and then Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) threatened to retaliate. The final bill text wasn’t unveiled until after 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, a half-hour before the vote.

But after another long, stop-and-start day, a few minutes before midnight, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill. "We packed months of legislative process into five days," Schumer declared beforehand.

"We pivoted from impeachment to 100 to nothing on this rescue package," McConnell added. "This is about as flawless as you could possibly be."

Ben White, Heather Caygle, Nancy Cook and Betsy Woodruff contributed to this report.

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