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D.C. Memo: Mailing it in

Stimulus oversight; vote-by-mail efforts; campaigning in times of COVID-19; and more.

photo of us capitol dome
REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, where the coronavirus stimulus money is going, campaigns adapt to COVID-19, and The Tentative Howard.

But first, a request: While MinnPost counts on members for most of our funding, we also rely on advertising revenue to keep us going — revenue that has been severely affected by the economic impact of coronavirus. Which means that if you aren’t a MinnPost member, or if you have the means to make a donation (in any amount), now is definitely the time. We’re gonna need you.

Alright. Let’s get on with this.

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Doling it out

You might get a $1,200 check. But small businesses, corporations, and public agencies are going to get money too.

MinnPost’s Peter Callaghan has a story on how much money Minnesota will get from the $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus response bill — and what it will pay for.

Who’s watching where the money is going? Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota’s Third District authored provisions in the stimulus to ensure Congress has extensive oversight capabilities, reviewing how each dollar is spent. But even as President Donald Trump signed the overall bill, in his signing statement, he suggested that the oversight provisions authored by Phillips could be sidestepped by the White House.

“Even though the statement was issued, and was issued quickly, at this stage, no line has been crossed,” Phillips told MinnPost. “But we will be watching intently and act accordingly.”

You can read more here.

Vote by mail

Coronavirus is disrupting voting as we know it.

One possible solution: nationwide vote-by-mail. But setting that up would be a challenge.

Enter the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, which would ensure that all states have 20 days of early voting in person and no-excuse absentee vote by mail.

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$400 million for things like early voting was allocated in the Senate’s $2 trillion dollar stimulus bill. But “$400 million is a downpayment,” Wyden said on a press call today. Experts, like those at NYU’s Brennan Center, recommend $2 billion.

In an interview with Fox and Friends, President Donald Trump lambasted the plan. “The things they had in there were crazy,” he said about Pelosi’s plan. “They had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Other Republicans have echoed that language. The GOP speaker of Georgia’s state House, David Ralston, is against everyone getting easy access to absentee ballots for the May 19 election. He told reporters it will “drive up turnout” and be “devastating to Republicans.”

By the numbers

  • 0: The amount of movie theatres, in-person concerts, and dine-in restaurants you can attend right now. Instead, here are 21 MinnPost recommended things you can read and watch.
  • 1,268: The number of ventilators Minnesota has access to — about 3 for every 10,000 adults in the state — according to Gov. Tim Walz in the Star Tribune.
  • 6.6 million: The number of people in the U.S. that filed for unemployment last week.

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Candidates adapt

At the Star Tribune, Pat Condon has a story on how candidates are adapting and scaling back in-person campaigning during the COVID-19 epidemic.

“It’s uncharted territory on every level,” Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, told the Strib. Her counterpart at the DFL, Ken Martin, said much of the same “So much of what we take for granted about how an election works is up in the air right now.”

In other news

Quote of the week

How have Minnesota state House committee meetings been going? They’ve been functioning remotely, but they’re still functioning. The closed captioning? Also pretty good:

Rep. Mike Howard of Richfield became ‘The Tentative Howard,’ Rep. Lyndon Carlson of Crystal was ‘Representative Karl Can,’ Representative Hodan Hassan of Minneapolis came up as ‘Representative Poke Fun.’ and Rep. Gene Pelowski of Winona was displayed as “‘Representative Pull Out Game.’”

What I’m reading

Jennifer Bendery for HuffPost: The White House Wanted To Give $0 To Tribes In The $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill

A good straightforward story on the White House’s position. The stimulus as passed provides about $10 billion for tribal governments, which obviously need money to operate during the crisis.

Akela Lacy for The Intercept: Private Equity Baron Sitting on Empty Philadelphia Hospital in Line For Huge Tax Break

This one’s also straightforward. The millionaire who owns Philadelphia’s closed Hahnemann Hospital is in line for a tax break under the stimulus. At the same time, the hospital is entirely empty. And the millionaire wants to charge the city $1 million per month to use it.

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