Republicans wrangle over next coronavirus relief bill, hope for vaccines and Fauci to help usher in new baseball season

President Donald Trump gave masks his strongest endorsement yet on Monday, saying its "Patriotic" to wear them.
Image: Donald Trump coronavirus briefing
In an effort to assert leadership in the midst of the pandemic, President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is going to resume the daily televised coronavirus briefings. Evan Vucci / AP file

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Republican leaders are debating their priorities for the next coronavirus relief bill as President Donald Trump attempts to bolster confidence in his handling of the pandemic.

Here's what we're watching this Tuesday morning.


Trump throws wrench into coronavirus bill negotiations with Senate Republicans

President Trump is throwing a big wrench into negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans over the next coronavirus relief bill by demanding a payroll tax cut be included and funding for testing be reduced or cut completely.

Leaving meetings on Capitol Hill Monday night, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the payroll tax cut is in the yet-to-be released bill despite Republican senators saying they don’t think it’s good policy.

“Not a fan of that, I’ve made that pretty clear,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said of the payroll tax cut proposal.

GOP senators have also denounced any attempt by the White House to cut funding for coronavirus testing.

"All roads to open school, opening, going back to work, child care, lead through testing," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Health Committee, said.

Republicans are trying to get on the same page before they start negotiating with Democrats over what goes into the next coronavirus relief bill.

The back and forth comes as nearly three-quarters of Americans say they are worried about economic loss due to the coronavirus, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey weekly tracking poll.

Meantime, the European Union managed to clinch a deal on a $2.1 trillion budget and coronavirus recovery fund early Tuesday. Leaders from 27 countries managed to find unity after four days and nights of fighting and wrangling over money and power in one of their longest summits ever.

"The consequences will be historic," French President Emmanuel Macron said.


COVID-19 vaccine trials show early promising results — but major challenges ahead

Two potential coronavirus vaccines have shown promising results in early trials, and while experts say that's encouraging news, they warn that some of the biggest hurdles still lie ahead.

The early trial results for the two vaccine candidates — one developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and the other by the Chinese company CanSino Biologics — showed that both were safe and could induce immune responses in participants.

But health experts warn the next phase will be critical to demonstrate that the potential vaccines can protect against infections.

"If we're making a plane, right now we're at the production level," said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.


Amid sagging poll numbers, Trump tries to pivot

President Trump is preparing to sign a range of executive orders as part of a shift in White House strategy to boost Americans' confidence in his leadership amid widespread criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, administration officials said.

The White House is trying to reposition the president as proactive, rather than on the defensive over his response to the coronavirus, as he trails the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by double digits in multiple polls less than four months before the election.

The strategy is coupled with a plan for Trump to return to headlining coronavirus briefings, which he stopped attending in April after even some of his allies said they were too long, unfocused and were having a negative impact on his poll numbers.

The president also made a U-turn on masks Monday,giving them his strongest endorsement yet after months of downplaying them.

"Many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance," Trump tweeted. "There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!"

It has been more than three months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended wearing masks in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

As recently as his interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace that aired on Sunday, Trump said he would not consider a national mask order because "I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that."

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he does not believe masks are "optional for people who want to protect themselves and people around them."


Suspect in federal judge's home ambush railed against her in misogynistic book

Authorities believe an attorney found dead in New York on Monday was the shooter who killed a New Jersey federal judge's son and wounded her husband, law enforcement sources with knowledge told NBC New York.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified him as Roy Den Hollander, a well-known New York lawyer who has a long history of anti-feminist work.

Den Hollander posted thousands of pages of writing to the internet in recent years decrying feminism and ranting against U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, according to websites registered in his name and address.

In the recently published memoir Den Hollander left online, he called Salas "a lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama."

But as New Jersey's first Hispanic U.S. District judge, Salas has long been seen as an accomplished and admired Latina legal trailblazer.

"A lot of hearts are breaking right now," David Lopez, co-dean of Rutgers Law School told NBC News. "There is a tremendous amount of love in our law school community for Judge Salas."


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Quote of the day

"I’m pleading with your viewers, I’m begging you: Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering."

Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Monday begging Fox News viewers to wear masks in public to help contain the coronavirus.


One fun thing

Now pitching for the Washington Nationals: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the defending world champions on Opening Day on Thursday.

Fauci, a Nats "super-fan," had urged professional sports leagues to put in strict safety measures in order to play this season, leading Major League Baseball to shorten its season and play games with no fans in the stands.

In an interview with the Nationals' Ryan Zimmermanearlier this year, Fauci said he was keeping his fingers crossed there would be some sort of baseball season this summer.

"Even if it’s just TV. I feel that strongly, one, because I’m an avid baseball fan. But also, I mean it’s for the country’s mental health to have the great American pastime be seen," he said.

Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Nats game against the Yankees,Al Drago / Pool via Reuters

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If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — send me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra