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Congress considers a fourth COVID-related stimulus package; the Trump administration continues its fight against the Affordable Care Act; and Sen. Bernie Sanders drops his bid for president.

photo of us capitol
The House is currently out of session and scheduled to return on April 20 (House and Senate leadership said Thursday that return date is unlikely).
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, Congress considers a fourth COVID-related stimulus package; the Trump administration continues its fight against the Affordable Care Act; and Sen. Bernie Sanders drops his bid for president. Let’s get on with this.

And for my fourth trick

Congressional leaders are currently discussing what a fourth coronavirus stimulus package might look like. They are still debating whether or not it’s possible for the House to vote remotely. Senate Democrats blocked the quick passage of a new stimulus package today, saying Republicans will need to include more money for hospitals and states.

The House is currently out of session and scheduled to return on April 20 (House and Senate leadership said Thursday that return date is unlikely).

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Pushing out the ACA?

As Congress continues conversations with the White House on what they want in the package, the Trump administration is continuing its push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which provides around 300,000 Minnesotans with health insurance coverage.

“What we want to do is terminate it,” President Donald Trump said of the Affordable Care Act late last month.

I talked to Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, about this and the challenges faced by the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s hard to have three things going on at once: economic distress, losing loved ones, and then not being able to have the sociological connection points help you through tough times,” Slavitt said. ”It’s very difficult. So not going to deny that it’s difficult, but we’ll have to help each other resist the temptation to do things which will prolong the agony.”

Read more at MinnPost.

Sanders is out

Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination on Wednesday, ending a primary contest that’s been years in the making: Former U.S. Rep John Delaney announced his run in August of 2017. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the bigger names of the cycle, announced an exploratory committee in December of 2018.

Sanders intends to keep every staff member on their health care plan until November.

Vote by mail?

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has backed a bill that would permit the shift to all vote-by-mail during periods of peacetime emergency due to infectious disease outbreaks. Republicans leaders around the state want none of it.

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“As our nation grapples with a new normal filled with stress, anxiety and illness, Secretary of State Steven Simon’s push to change our voting system just adds to the chaos,” said MNGOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan. “Attempting to change a law now for elections that are months away is extremely premature and a disappointing power grab by the Democrats at a time of extreme unease.”

The same mindset is true for elected Republicans around the country, where prominent party leaders have denounced vote by mail as prone to fraud (without any evidence).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has led the charge in pushing for additional federal dollars and mechanisms to be in place before November so that states are prepared for voting amid the pandemic. Advocates estimate that it will cost about $2 billion.

Talking about why he does not support an expansion of vote by mail, President Donald Trump said on Fox and Friends: “They had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

By the numbers

  • 5/4/2020: Minnesota’s stay-at-home order has been extended to this date. If you want to know more, MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein has an explainer: What you need to know about Minnesota’s revised stay-at-home order.
  • $11,944.63: The amount spent by Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life’s PAC supporting Seventh District Republican Michelle Fischbach. (The money was primarily spent on direct mail.)
  • 17,000,000: U.S. unemployment claims are nearing 17 million, continuing to skyrocket as many “non-essential” businesses are ordered to remain closed by state governments.

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In other news

Quote of the week

“During this unprecedented public health crisis, people need to have access to their trusted local news outlets for this reliable and sometimes life-saving information,” reads a letter to Senate leadership signed by more than 15 Senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The letter asks Senate leadership to consider additional money for local journalism in the next coronavirus stimulus package.

What I’m reading

Hunter Harris for Vulture: Jaboukie Young-White Will Probably Get Suspended Again

An interview with comedian and Daily Show correspondent Jaboukie Young-White. Here’s how he starts his day: “I wake up and scroll Twitter until I see something that pisses me off. And then I’m like, Okay, time to get out of bed. That usually takes anywhere between five and 15 minutes. I straight up have not been going outside. It’s been like 14 days maybe.”

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.