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D.C. Memo: An unexpected recess

The COVID-19 pandemic in D.C.; Hagedorn on climate change; and more.

photo of us capitol dome
Members of Congress are treating the crisis differently when it comes to their staff management.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, telework, the president refused to condemn a racist comment, and in non-coronavirus news: a member of Congress doesn’t believe in climate change. Let’s get on with it. But first, be sure to subscribe to MinnPost’s daily coronavirus update.


As offices around the country are switching to telework, some members of congress are doing much of the same. Sen. Tina Smith has set up a mandatory telework policy. Sen. Amy Klobuchar still has offices open. All members are treating the crisis differently when it comes to their staff management. Read more at MinnPost. 

Lawmakers have been turning to teleconference calls and video chats to communicate with constituents, reports the Strib’s Torey Van Oot. 

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Despite the changes at the capital, lawmakers are still working on legislation. Rep. Ilhan Omar is advocating, in response to the coronavirus, that every adult be sent a check for $1,000 and $500 for every child. Klobuchar is currently pushing a bill that would expand in-person early voting and absentee voting by mail, as well as require states to develop voting contingency plans in the event of an emergency like coronavirus.

On Tuesday morning, a White House staffer told CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang the coronavirus should be called the “kung flu.” “Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back,” she later tweeted.

When asked about those remarks, President Trump said he had no problem with them. The president has also consistently called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” which World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials have condemned as wrong and inaccurate.

At the same time, there’s been a very visible rise in hate crimes targeted at Asians around the globe and it’s hard to not connect the normalization of this language from the president to the normalization of these incidents.

At another press conference today, Trump said the FDA approved a new drug for treating COVID-19. The FDA said that actually, it had not, within about two hours.

Fortune 500

Target employees around the country are struggling without paid sick leave. For The Nation, P.E. Moskowitz looks at how retail workers are coping with the crisis.

“I honestly don’t know if I’m going to be paid or not,” said one Target employee, who was tested for coronavirus, hasn’t received her test results, and wanted to remain anonymous. “Multiple coworkers who worked with me over the weekend have decided to self-isolate until I get my results back. I expect that I will probably be punished or let go once I return to work.”

Climate change is real

Rep. Jim Hagedorn doesn’t believe in climate change. But the climate is changing, with or without a response from the First District Congressman. Read more at MinnPost.

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“I mean, they got to wake up to this stuff, you know?,” one earth science professor in the district told MinnPost. “Cause I think in Southern Minnesota, we need help.”

In other news

Quote of the week

“It could have been stopped if we had known, if everybody had known about it,” President Trump said at a briefing on Thursday. The Trump administration was aware of COVID-19 as early as December of 2019.

What I’m reading

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Amal Ahmed for Texas Monthly: The Most Unexpected Revelation From RuPaul’s Recent NPR Interview? He Might Be Fracking

Ru Paul is fracking? On his property in Texas, the famed drag queen has been renting out land to oil and gas companies. If you could go out, this might be a fun fact to share at parties. But now, consider sharing it over video chat.

Taylor Lorenz, Erin Griffith and Mike Isaac for The New York Times: From Zoom University to the Zoom Party

Professors are hosting classes on Zoom, the popular teleworking app. Some people are throwing parties. A good way to socialize with a lot of friends, if you’ve been looking for a way to catch up with a lot of people at once.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.