WASHINGTON — In his nearly 90-minute speech at CPAC on Sunday, Donald Trump lashed out at President Biden on immigration, at the Republicans who voted for his impeachment, at mask-wearing policies, and even at transgender athletes playing women’s sports.
On top of it all, he claimed — falsely — that he won the 2020 presidential election. (In fact, he lost the popular vote by 7 million, and the electoral vote by a 306-232 margin.)
But strikingly, Trump made only passing reference to the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package that House Democrats passed early Saturday and that the Senate is now set to consider.
“The Democrats now say we have to pass their $1.9 trillion boondoggle to open schools, but a very small part of it has to do with that,” he said. “You know where it's going — it's going to bailout badly-run Democrat cities, so much of it.”
That’s it. In almost 90 minutes of remarks, Trump devoted just two sentences of criticism to Biden’s first legislative priority as president.
And it says a lot about the state of GOP opposition to the Covid relief bill, which remains popular in polls: While House Republicans uniformly voted against it on Saturday, it hasn’t been an animating issue for Republicans.
Whether for Trump at CPAC yesterday.
Or for other CPAC speakers over the weekend.
Or for even rank-and-file GOP lawmakers in Washington.
It’s getting worse for Cuomo
“Faced with multiple allegations of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday apologized for comments that ‘have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation’ and, following pressure from fellow Democrats, agreed to refer the matter to the state attorney general's office,” per NBC News.
“‘At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,’ he said, adding, ‘I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.’”
This year is shaping up to be a miserable year for New York Democrats, and we can imagine how Andrew Cuomo and his multiple controversies are going to dominate 2021’s New York City mayoral race.
Data Download: The numbers you need to know today
28,706,169: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 192,884 more than Friday morning.)
515,544: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 4,784 more than Friday morning.)
47,352: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States.
354.6 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.
75,236,003: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.
24,779,920: People fully vaccinated in the U.S.
59: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.
68 percent: The share of CPAC straw-poll voters who said they wanted Trump to run again in 2024.
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Talking policy with Benjy
Back to the drawing board on minimum wage: Democrats are on the verge of passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill with surprisingly little internal drama, but a minimum wage increase is off the table thanks to a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and moderate opposition. Now their backup plan is also gone.
Senate Democrats, led by Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., initially unveiled a “Plan B” to encourage higher wages through the tax code by penalizing large corporations who paid less than $15 an hour and providing a $10,000 deduction for small businesses who raised wages.
But on Sunday, that plan collapsed. A source familiar with talks said it was too much to negotiate before March 14, when emergency unemployment benefits lapse if no bill is signed. While the details were never finalized, outside experts had also questioned whether big companies would find ways to reorganize in order to avoid the tax.
So what’s next? The failure to find a workaround on wages prompted renewed calls from progressives to end the filibuster, but that’s a nonstarter so long as Senators Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. are still opposed, and the two also favor a lower minimum wage than the $15 figure approved by the House.
Some Republicans are floating alternatives, but they seem unlikely to produce a bipartisan deal. A group led by Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. want to pair a $10 minimum wage (nonstarter with Democrats) that’s indexed to inflation with new requirements for businesses to screen for undocumented workers (part of the big bipartisan immigration bill in 2013, nonstarter with Democrats here). Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. proposed requiring large corporations to pay workers $15 an hour along with a bill to subsidize wages for workers who make less than $16.50 with tax credits. But his staff estimates a $200 billion price tag and it’s unclear if it has any traction within the GOP.
If Wyden and Sanders can’t find a workable tax proposal for the next reconciliation bill, Democrats could potentially try to tie a wage increase to a larger vehicle elsewhere. This is how the 2007 minimum wage hike became law, which was attached to a bipartisan Iraq War spending bill. Would Republicans let, say, a $12 minimum wage in a must-pass spending bill slide in order to get past a political issue that favors Democrats?
Senate takes action on two more Biden Cabinet picks
The Senate is readying to act on at least two of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees today.
According to the Senate’s calendar, Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona may have his confirmation vote later this afternoon, and he’s likely to be confirmed by the end of the day. The Senate advanced Cardona’s nomination to the Senate floor last week.
Cardona’s first priority as Education secretary will likely be getting schools across the country reopened. Biden promised during a townhall in February that most schools grades K-8 would be back to having students learn in-person, five days a week by the end of his first 100 days.
“I think we'll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days. We've had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened. My guess is they're going to probably be pushing to open all summer, to continue like it's a different semester and try to catch up,” Biden said.
Also on the Senate’s calendar today is to move Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo’s nomination forward with a cloture vote so her confirmation vote will also likely be this week.
Catching up on Meet the Press? We’ve got you covered with MTP Compressed. Dr. Anthony Fauci joined the show to discuss the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine and states easing coronavirus restrictions as cases and deaths trend downward. Plus, we had exclusive interviews with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about America’s place in the world under new leadership, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Biden’s Covid relief package and the fight over the minimum wage.
ICYMI: What else is happening in the world
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Allies of Adam Kinzinger are launching a super PAC to help Republicans who have bucked Trump.
Iran says the time isn’t right for an early meeting on the nuclear deal.
The Supreme Court will hear a key voting rights case this week.