Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, Congress is back in session; Jason Lewis takes to his RV; and Klobuchar is both in and out of VEEP considerations. Let’s get on with this.
Congress is back in session this week. The Senate passed a brief expansion to the $2.2 trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus package passed last month, and the House followed suit on Thursday.
The bill includes $320 billion to replenish the already-depleted small business loan fund, as well as $60 billion for a separate small-business emergency program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing.
Money for small business loans ran out in about two weeks, prompting a partisan back-and-forth about what needed to be included in this package so that both sides of the aisle could vote for it.
“Promises were made in the CARES Act that made small businesses believe they would receive their loans in a timely fashion,” Rep. Pete Stauber said at a recent committee hearing. “Instead, some received a fraction of what they were promised and many others received nothing at all.”
The movement to re-open Minnesota’s businesses early, against the recommendation of health professionals, certainly started before The Tweet. But it was certainly elevated by it.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” President Donald Trump cried out in one tweet. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” he said. “LIBERATE VIRGINIA!”
Some Minnesotans have taken to the street, and to the space outside the governor’s residence, to protest the COVID-19 restrictions. A few days after the president’s tweets, he had a conversation with Gov. Tim Walz. “Received a very nice call from Gov Tim Walz of Minnesota,” he said on Monday. “We are working closely on getting him all he needs, and fast. Good things happening!”
Jason Lewis, the former Minnesota congressman challenging Sen. Tina Smith for her seat, led some of the first critique lobbed at the stay-at-home orders. He’s since published several op-eds and recently embarked on a ’Re-Open Minnesota for Business’ RV Tour.
Related: State Rep. Frank Hornstein has an op-ed in The Forward about the protest movement’s trivialization of the Holocaust.
All of this is against the advice of health care experts who have suggested that going back to normal too quickly will result in a spike in cases.
“We have to give our scientists time to catch up to this and we have to give our frontline healthcare workforce enough opportunity to manage this,” Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told MinnPost earlier this month. “So we don’t have people dying in the hallways of hospitals.”
Where’s the money?
“Minnesota budget officials are pretty sure how much money the state is getting from Congress to help with the governmental response to COVID-19. They’re just not sure when they’ll get much of it — or how they can spend it.”
After endorsing Joe Biden before the Minnesota primary and conceding the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was (and still is) widely considered to be a strong candidate for vice president.
“I don’t think this is just a pipe dream being spun up by the people around her to increase her chances,” Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party, told the Strib. “I know that the vice president is seriously considering her. I’ll tell you, just based on my conversations with his campaign and others, Biden is fond of her.”
But picking Klobuchar runs up directly against some of Biden’s most prominent allies in the Congressional Black Caucus, several of whom have openly advocated for picking a black VP.
“At some point, when do you reward your good soldiers?,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), the former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Daily Beast. “It was black people who turned Joe Biden’s campaign around.”
Biden’s staff, in private conversations, has acknowledged as much.
By the numbers
- $75,000: The Department of Veterans Affairs is spending around $75,000 on masks through MyPillow, a Minnesota-based company run by Trump friend Mike Lindell. MyPillow is currently looking for a subcontractor to fulfill the order, since they can’t make it directly. Lindell told Politico: “We’re not making one dime of profit.”
- 200,000: The amount of pigs COVID-19-related plant shutdowns could force hog farmers to kill and dispose of.
- 26,000,000: The number of unemployment claims filed over the last five weeks.
In other news
- Milwaukee Documents Seven Coronavirus Cases Linked to In-Person Voting | Akela Lacy, The Intercept
- Gov. Walz to order Minnesota schools closed the rest of the school year | Briana Bierschbach, The Star Tribune
- University of Minnesota to freeze tuition next academic year | Ryan Faircloth, Star Tribune
Quote of the week
“It’s become very clear to me what a socioeconomic disease this is,” an ER doctor told the New Yorker. “People hear that term ‘essential workers.’ Short-order cooks, doormen, cleaners, deli workers—that is the patient population here. Other people were at home, but my patients were still working.”
What I’m reading
Not the usual reading, but definitely take a look. Report for America is fielding 225 reporters in 162 newsrooms around the country, in order to rebuild newsroom capacity as local and regional newsrooms decline.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.