Trump's Emergency Coronavirus Response

Trump's Emergency Coronavirus Response

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Plus: Bernie Sanders still doesn't want to talk pay-fors
Monday, February 24, 2020

Trump White House Will Ask Congress for Emergency Coronavirus Funding

The Trump White House is preparing to ask Congress for emergency funding to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which spooked financial markets on Monday, fueling the biggest stock market selloff in two years as the number of cases worldwide rises and worries mount about the global economic repercussions.

"We need some funding here to make sure that we protect all Americans,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News. Gidley declined to specify how much the White House would be requesting after Fox’s Ed Henry said he’d been hearing $3 billion to $5 billion. Other news reports suggested the White House could seek about $1 billion.

Experts have questioned whether that would be sufficient. “By any measure, that would not be enough for a government-wide supplemental to make a meaningful impact,” Adriane Casalotti, an official at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told The Hill. “Vaccine development alone needs way more than that.”

Inside the administration’s decision-making: The administration has reportedly pushed back on that $1 billion figure, with officials saying that the final number was still being determined.

“The White House budget office, led by Russell Vought, a stout conservative, is working with HHS to shape the request, with the agency seeking more than the White House is likely to approve,” The Associated Press reported. “There is a receptive audience for the request on Capitol Hill, though stand-alone emergency spending bills can be tricky to pass since they are invariably a target for lawmakers seeking add-ons.”

Congress likely to provide more: Democratic lawmakers have been pushing the administration to request emergency funding, and Congress is likely to add to whatever amount the White House asks for, The New York Times reported, citing a congressional aide with knowledge of the planning.

“While I welcome action from the administration and look forward to working with them, it is worth noting that Appropriations Chairwoman [Nita] Lowey and I urged the administration three weeks ago to submit an emergency supplemental funding request to address the novel coronavirus public health emergency,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who heads the appropriations subcommittee on health, said in a statement, according to the Times. “Since then, new cases and deaths around the world have significantly worsened, and we have still not received crucial information as to what funding H.H.S. has allocated to emergency response activities or how quickly they expect to expend funding.”

The Trump administration initially said it could fund its coronavirus response by tapping into a $105 million rapid response fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and transferring up to $136 million from other federal programs.

What’s next: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is scheduled to testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday and will likely be questioned about the administration’s coronavirus response and funding request.

Numbers of the Day: 1.37% and 1.811%

As worries about the coronavirus mounted on Monday and investors sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries, the yield on benchmark 10-year notes fell to 1.37%, near the all-time closing low of 1.364% set in July 2016. The yield on 30-year Treasury bonds touched a record low of 1.811%.

Trump’s Wealth Test for Immigrants Now in Effect

The Trump administration on Monday began enforcing new rules designed to weed out immigrants who have used public assistance in the U.S. — or are at risk of doing so in the future.

Building on existing federal law, the new “public-charge” rule requires U.S. officials to apply more stringent income- and wealth-based requirements to green card and some visa applicants, while giving the officials wide latitude to reject immigrants who they determine are — or could become — reliant on a variety of social welfare programs, including food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid.

Under the rule, any immigrant who receives certain kinds of public assistance for more than 12 months in the previous three years will be ineligible for entry or permanent residency. Officials can also consider other factors for each applicant — including age, language skills, wealth and education — and weigh those factors to determine the potential for welfare use in the future. In a surprising twist, the very fact someone is applying for a green card can count against them, as The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell reported last week.

The rule could have a big effect: “The sweeping policy change, one of the administration’s top immigration priorities, is expected to block the entry of hundreds of thousands of people, disproportionately prospective immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America,” CBS News said.

Estimates of the number of immigrants who could be affected by the rule vary, ranging from 400,000 to 3.9 million. And some of those people will be middle-class, Axios said, since anyone with an income below 250% of the poverty line — or $76,700 for a family of five — will be penalized in the new system. Having a mortgage or credit card debt will also be a negative.

Proponents of the law say it will save money by removing immigrants from social welfare programs, and the administration estimates the savings will come to more than $3 billion a year. Critics, however, say any savings will be dwarfed by the economic losses associated with fewer workers and economic output. New American Economy, an advocacy group founded in 2010 by then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the rule could generate an economic loss of more than $80 billion.

A victory for conservatives: The new rule is the product of a long-standing effort on the right to reduce the number of poor immigrants, who are seen as imposing a high cost on society. “Conservatives have been trying for decades to create an immigration system that rewards immigrants who won’t be a burden on society and discourages those who will,” The Washington Times said.

At the White House Saturday, press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the rule will "reestablish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers."

Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the rule was intended to “encourage self-sufficiency, promote immigrant success and protect American taxpayers."

Critics see something more sinister: The Trump administration is trying to turn back the clock and close the door on poor and non-white immigrants, says Doug Rand, an immigration specialist who worked in the Obama White House. "It's the administration saying let's get as close as we can to the 1924 act that restricted immigration from everywhere but Northern Europe," Rand told Axios.

In an editorial Monday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said the public charge rule is “un-American” and cruel, and likely to hurt the country in the long run. “Immigrants are not ‘burdens’ upon the American public as the Trump administration wants you to believe,” Swalwell said. “In fact, our economy likely would suffer without the immigrants this rule could bar from living in the US.”

More legal challenges ahead: The public-charge rule was issued last August — you can see the final version here — and scheduled to take effect in October, but legal challenges delayed its implementation. The rule cleared a significant hurdle last Friday, when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 along ideological lines to allow it to take effect in Illinois, sparking a fiery dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who accused the conservative majority of rushing the case in order to give the Trump administration a victory.

Additional legal challenges are making their way through the courts, and the Supreme Court may address the issue again in the coming months.

Sanders Bristles When Asked on ’60 Minutes’ About the Cost of His Proposals

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t want to get into any details when pressed about the price tag for his ambitious agenda. He said his Medicare-for-All plan would cost about $30 trillion over 10 years, which would, he argues, cost “substantially less than letting the current system go.” Asked about a total price tag for his entire agenda — which includes free public college, cancellation of all student debt and a Green New Deal to tackle climate change — Sanders said he doesn’t have a total cost figure:

Anderson Cooper: But you say you don't know what the total price is, but you know how it's gonna be paid for. How do you know it's gonna be paid for if you don't know how much the price is?

Bernie Sanders: Well, I can't-- you know, I can't rattle off to you ever nickel and every dime. But we have accounted for-- you-- you talked about Medicare for All. We have options out there that will pay for it.

Later, after Cooper asked Sanders about how he’ll pay for a new universal childcare and pre-K proposal, the Democratic frontrunner pushed back on the premise of the question:

“It's taxes on billionaires. You know? You know, I get a little bit tired of hearing my opponents saying—‘Gee, how you going to pay for a program that impacts and helps children or working-class families or middle-class families? How you going to pay for that?’ And yet, where are people saying, ‘How are you going to pay for over $750 billion on military spending?’ How you going to pay for a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the 1% in large corporations, which was what Trump did? When you help the billionaires and you help Wall Street, ‘Hey! Of course we can pay for it. That's what America's supposed to be about.’ Well, I disagree.”

Chart of the Day

The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham highlights a new report that has generated plenty of debate on econ Twitter, calling the chart here “the best explanation of middle-class finances you will ever see”:

“A new report published by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, offers a clear explanation for the disconnect between the economy described by economists and the one experienced by regular people. It all boils down to the startling shift illustrated in the chart below.

“Lead author Oren Cass distills it as follows: “In 1985, the typical male worker could cover a family of four’s major expenditures (housing, health care, transportation, education) on 30 weeks of salary,” he wrote on Twitter last week. “By 2018 it took 53 weeks. Which is a problem, there being 52 weeks in a year.”


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