**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Unemployment skyrockets – Abortion providers sue over Texas emergency ban – I’ll Tell You What: When doves cry – Team Trump tries to push super PAC into action – Father Unicorn
Bloomberg: “The magnitude of the economic devastation being wrought by the coronavirus pandemic was laid bare on Thursday when the U.S. government reported an unprecedented surge in the number of people seeking jobless benefits. A total of 3.28 million people filed for unemployment insurance in the week ended March 21, dwarfing previous highs in Labor Department reports published since 1967. Two weeks earlier, before the closures swept across vast swaths of the country, the number stood at 211,000, close to a half-century low. ‘This shows the severity of the downturn, and the speed of it,’ said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp. ‘It speaks to the unusual nature of this recession — it is an abrupt plunge into recession versus prior downturns, where the shock has time to multiply. We could have very high numbers continue for the next few weeks.’”
Pelosi sets targets for next bailout package – Roll Call: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday laid out Democratic demands for the next phase of the legislative coronavirus response – a day before the House is scheduled to vote on an estimated $2.2 trillion deal that is the largest economic assistance package in U.S. history. Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday morning and laid out her wish list for follow-up legislation: ‘A better definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave’; Health care worker and pension protections, which she said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said could be done in the next phase; Increasing SNAP benefits by 15 percent; More funds to state and local governments; Free coronavirus testing, doctor visits and follow-up treatment; Equitable funding for Washington, D.C., residents. ‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ she said of the Senate’s decision to treat D.C. as a territory rather than a state, which deprives the district of at least $750 million more in emergency funding.”
Feds set to take ownership stakes in airlines – WSJ: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that the U.S. government would take stakes in airline carriers in exchange for billions in direct grants to the companies, part of a $2 trillion economic rescue package, according to people familiar with the matter. He detailed his plans during last-minute negotiations when the aid to airlines emerged as a major sticking point. Republicans had rejected providing cash grants to airlines, and an earlier version of the legislation would have provided $50 billion in loans and loan guarantees to passenger airlines and $8 billion to cargo airlines—but no direct aid.”
How lobbyists loaded legislation with special provisions – NYT: “Many of these special-interest provisions would be impossible for a casual reader of the legislation to identify. For example, on Page 15 of the bill, there is a section with the title ‘Business Concerns With More Than 1 Physical Location.’ It says this change in federal law will apply to companies that fit ‘a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72’ — a reference that turns out to mean the hotel and restaurant industry. The provision says that if a company owns multiple hotels, even if the overall hotel or restaurant chain has more than 500 employees — the limit to qualify for treatment as a small business — it will still be able to take advantage of the small-business benefits offered in the rescue package.”
Senators head home until April 20 – CNBC: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would adjourn for nearly a month after it passed a historically huge $2 trillion coronavirus relief package late Wednesday night. But as the outbreak takes a toll on American health and financial well-being, the unprecedented crisis may force Congress to act again sooner than the Senate’s planned return date of April 20. McConnell acknowledged the reality Wednesday night, promising the chamber would stay ‘nimble’ as the pandemic spreads. ‘If circumstances require the Senate to return for a vote sooner than April the 20th, we will provide at least 24 hours of notice,’ he said.”
Vacancies, inexperience hamper federal response – NYT: “Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States. The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.”
ABORTION PROVIDERS SUE OVER TEXAS EMERGENCY BAN
Fox News: “Planned Parenthood Federation of America, along with other pro-choice groups, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and several other state officials over a temporary ban on elective abortion during the coronavirus pandemic. The ban was issued as part of an executive order by Abbott aimed at conserving medical equipment and the capacity of the health care system after warnings from health care professionals that patients sick with the coronavirus might overwhelm hospital capacity and deplete supplies, such as personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. Pro-choice activists say the ban was issued in bad faith and limits access to an ‘essential’ procedure.”
Pastor touts mass gatherings in Louisiana, a virus hotspot – USA Today: “A Louisiana pastor continues to defy the state’s orders prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people by holding church services, the latest of which he claimed had over 1,000 attendees. The Rev. Tony Spell, who claims that congregants at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central City, about 15 miles northeast of Baton Rouge, have been cured of cancer and HIV, said that coronavirus is ‘politically motivated.’ Spell claims that around 1,000 churchgoers, who the church has bussed in from five different parishes in Louisiana, have attended his church every Sunday despite state recommendations against mass gatherings. Additional services on Tuesday, he added, attract an additional few hundred churchgoers.”
THE RULEBOOK: CONSTITUTIONAL SHORTLIST
“The principal purposes to be answered by union are these the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23
TIME OUT: MAMMOTH, MAN
History: “On March 26, 1804, President Thomas Jefferson attends a public party at the Senate and leads a diverse crowd in consuming an enormous loaf of bread dubbed the mammoth loaf. … Early Americans’ use of the descriptive term mammoth arose from the discovery of a giant woolly mammoth skeleton in New York in 1801. Jefferson, fascinated with the natural sciences, was a member of the American Philosophical Society and helped the organization raise funds to complete the archaeological project. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents ridiculed the president’s scientific side projects as frivolous. In an attempt to embarrass the president, they dubbed the giant dairy product the mammoth cheese. To the Federalists’ surprise and disappointment, the general populace embraced the term with nationalistic zeal. Almost immediately, butcher shops and markets advertised mammoth-size products… The unveiling of the mammoth loaf occurred at a Senate-sponsored March 26 party to rally support for a naval war against the Barbary States.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at
with your tips, comments or questions.
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 45.4 percent
Average disapproval: 49.6 percent
Net Score: -4.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 3.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 49% approve – 45% disapprove; Monmouth University: 48% approve – 48% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve – 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve – 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WHEN DOVES CRY
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt touch base from their secure, undisclosed locations. They discuss the negotiation of the Coronavirus stimulus package, how Joe Biden might proceed in an election year fraught with a global pandemic and Chris weighs in on the importance of non-partisan consideration when discussing a possible “end date” to social distancing. Plus, Chris takes on presidential-ailment trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
DEMS NOW CAN’T RESOLVE RACE UNTIL JUNE
NYT: “June 2 had been an afterthought on the Democratic primary calendar. Ever since Joseph R. Biden Jr. seized the mantle of front-runner, voters in New Jersey and a few other states scheduled to vote that day assumed the Democratic horse race would be over before their primaries rolled around. But with numerous states pushing back voting to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the date has gained sudden prominence. It now confers a huge bounty of delegates, second only to Super Tuesday in early March, with Indiana, Pennsylvania and others moving to hold their primaries on the first Tuesday in June. Although Mr. Biden has built an all but insurmountable lead, June 2 — which is a long 10 weeks away — will be his first chance to clinch the presidential nomination. Only then would the former vice president have a definitive reason to press for the withdrawal of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont…”
Biden says no more debates – Politico: “Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday suggested there should be no more televised debates for the remainder of the 2020 Democratic primary, signaling an unwillingness to spar on stage again with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders next month. At a virtual news briefing on the coronavirus pandemic conducted from his home in Delaware, Biden was asked about the Sanders campaign’s statement to The New York Times on Tuesday that the senator would appear in an April debate if the Democratic National Committee proceeded with organizing the event. Pressed on whether he, too, would participate, Biden said: ‘My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now. I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this.’”
Wanted: An running mate who’s a replacement – NY Magazine: “Keeping in mind his own experience and his age, the former veep, 77, has always insisted to friends that his running mate must be ready to be president. But people close to him say he has recently become increasingly explicit that he may be choosing his own replacement, and that the candidates’ competence is now likely to be front and center in his considerations. ‘He’s been clear that he wants to pick someone who can be president if something happens to him,’ a senior Democrat in close contact with the Biden team told me. It’s a point he’s made on recent calls with political allies, and even with his former boss.”
Dems to seek mail-in mandate for November – Roll Call: “For example, House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of California said Democrats must secure a federal mandate requiring states to provide vote-by-mail or other remote options in the presidential election, with funding for state implementation. Democrats secured $400 million in election assistance in the phase three bill, but a federal vote-by-mail mandate would cost roughly $4 billion to implement, according to a senior Democratic aide.”
TEAM TRUMP TRIES TO PUSH SUPER PAC INTO ACTION
Politico: “In interviews, more than a half-dozen White House aides, campaign officials and other Trump allies said they felt deserted by the group, America First Action, openly questioning why it’s leaving [President Trump] exposed on the airwaves at the most vulnerable moment of his presidency. ‘There is a major vacuum on the political front right now, with the White House focused on coronavirus response and the campaign, rightly so, echoing the White House,’ said Chris LaCivita, who as chief strategist of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth orchestrated the 2004 John Kerry takedown. ‘With attacks coming from all over, the simple question is: Where the hell is the president’s air cover?’ The campaign is legally barred from communicating directly with the super PAC. Trump’s reelection effort itself is not currently attacking Biden on the airwaves during the pandemic because it wants to focus on echoing the president’s message.”
GOPers with 2024 hopes look for distance from Trump – WashEx: “Prominent Republicans eyeing a 2024 White House bid have placed themselves at the epicenter of efforts to blunt the coronavirus pandemic, with some departing from President Trump by proposing an extended and more aggressive economic shutdown. As Trump floats reopening a quarantined national economy by Easter, two Republican senators with presidential aspirations, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott of Florida, support tightening current restrictions and maintaining them for at least 30 days. Scott’s eight-point plan would suspend domestic airline travel and place a moratorium on people’s monthly financial obligations. Cotton advocates nationwide shelter-in-place rules and is urging the administration to heed the recommendations of Anthony Fauci and other experts.”
How the intelligence community predicted coronavirus – The Dispatch
G-7 scuttled statement on crisis over what to call the coronavirus – WaPo
Ohio lawmakers approve all-mail primary for April 28 – Cleveland Plain Dealer
“But [other than ObamaCare] you can’t think of something so major since the Great Society, Lyndon Johnson…” — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talking to Politico about the significance of the coronavirus bailout package he helped negotiate.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I know that both the House and the Senate write their own rules on how to proceed in passing bills. But, as their employer, can the voters impose some rules to govern the two bodies? For example, I think most voters would support a rule that would be binding on both bodies to keep each bill passed relevant to the main issue being addressed by the bill. It would guarantee that we avoid important pieces of legislation being loaded up with ‘wish list’ items, such as what’s been happening with the coronavirus measure.” – Lou Banas, Brea, Calif.
[Ed. note: There is indeed such a way, Mr. Banas! Unfortunately for your ambitions, that way is to elect members who wish to change the rules of their respective bodies to so bind them. But even if you did that, you might find that, as with term limits and balanced-budget amendments, they would lose their ardor for the reforms once they were in power. Then there’s the other question about deciding what is or isn’t germane. What you consider irrelevant, another might consider crucial, and vice versa. The Senate could empower its parliamentarian to make such rulings more often, but then the parliamentarian would, in effect, become a super senator with the power to veto any changes to legislation. So who should decide what’s relevant? The obvious answer would be that the members themselves should vote, which brings us… right back to where we started.]
“Read with interest your commentary that the President had already given back ‘the bump’ attributed to his role in the crisis. In these days of ‘rollercoaster everything’ perhaps you should wait for the longer view.” – Dr. Donald Brizzolara, Wilmington, Del.
[Ed. note: In fact, doctor, the president ticked back up in the most recent Gallup numbers that we shared yesterday. You are quite right that we will not know the long-term political consequences of the current crisis for months. That’s because we don’t know how bad or how long the crisis will be. Nor do we know how different political players will respond to the challenges. We’ve got a lot of rumsfeldian “known unknowns” to say nothing of the “unknown unknowns.” But we do like to check in on how things are progressing, which means occasionally pulling the dipstick on the oil pan. What’s important to remember is not to make straight-line projections based on current circumstances. The choices we all make, as Ebenezer Scrooge put it, “sponge away the writing on this stone.”]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
UPI: “An Italian priest’s live streamed mass on Facebook went viral after the religious leader accidentally left the platform’s AR filters active, causing him to appear in various cartoon disguises. Paolo Longo, parish priest of the Church of San Pietro and San Benedetto di Polla in Salerno province, live streamed mass on Facebook to allow parishioners to attend the service virtually amid the coronavirus outbreak. Longo’s video went viral when he accidentally left the Facebook AR filters active during the live stream, causing him to appear with animated accessories including a sci-fi helmet, lifting dumbbells and a hat and sunglasses. The priest had a sense of humor about the mistake, later posting: ‘Even a laugh is good.’”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Still undecided which of the two poisons is more deserving of social disapprobation? Here’s the ultimate test. Ask yourself this: If you knew your child was going to become addicted to either alcohol or tobacco, which would you choose?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 2001.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.