On Politics: The Country Keeps Reeling

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  • At this point, even the best-case coronavirus outcome is not looking very good. Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, the top government doctors in charge of the crisis, said their target was to keep the nation’s deaths from the virus to under 240,000. In a scenario in which the government had done nothing to intervene, more than two million people could have died. Striking an uncharacteristically somber tone, President Trump warned, “I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”

  • Fauci looked to New York for some (limited) signs of optimism. Saying that only by curbing people’s exposure to the virus, would the country be able to keep a handle on the fatalities, he ventured: “I don’t want to jump the gun on it. We’re seeing little inklings of this in New York.”

  • But the news coming from Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Democratic governor, was mostly grim. He announced on Tuesday morning that the virus had killed 332 people in New York since the day before — bringing the state’s total to 1,550. (That official toll will undoubtedly rise again this morning.) And for Cuomo, the crisis has hit home: He said at his daily news briefing that his brother, Chris, a CNN host, had contracted the virus. “He’s my best friend,” the governor said. “Now he’s quarantined in the basement. But he’s funny as heck. He says to me, ‘Even the dogs won’t come downstairs.’”

  • The ink is barely dry on the $2 trillion stimulus package that Trump signed last week, but House Democrats are already prepping to fight for more. It was the largest single stimulus bill in history, but the legislation’s provisions are not long-term. It offers most adults a series of one-time (not recurring) cash payments, and its expansions to unemployment benefits are good for just 13 weeks on top of what states normally allow. And millions of Americans have joined the unemployment rolls since the coronavirus began spreading widely a few weeks ago. Still, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, threw cold water on the idea of another big stimulus bill. “I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn’t otherwise be able to pass,” he said Tuesday on the radio show of Hugh Hewitt, a conservative commentator.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, spoke on Tuesday as President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci listened.

A cadre of progressive Democrats in New York, who led a recent partisan takeover of the State Legislature, have proposed a generous bailout for tenants and property owners who are hit hard in the cratering economy.

Andrew Cuomo has ordered a 90-day moratorium on evictions, but some lawmakers, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, say that is not enough. One of the leading bills in the State Legislature, introduced by State Senator Michael Gianaris, would waive rent and mortgage payments for three months.

Cuomo would have to sign off on the bill, which some observers, including those in the tenants’ rights movement, question whether he would do and if it could withstand a legal challenge in court. On the other side, representatives of landlords are telling state lawmakers that the financial burden cannot be simply transferred from renters to property owners. They want their own financial help, too.

So far, the financial relief for renters under consideration in Albany is the most sweeping and generous package of potential aid in any state, and it reflects the newfound clout of tenants in a legislature long dominated by the powerful real estate industry. The proposed legislation has positioned New York as a leader across the country — though lawmakers in California and Washington State are not far behind in proposing similar assistance.

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