Biden and Sanders unveil ‘unity task force’ members
Joe Biden and his former rival, US senator Bernie Sanders, unveiled the members of the “unity task force” the two men agreed to create in an attempt to mend policy divides within the Democratic party.
When Sanders announced his endorsement of Biden a week after he dropped out of the race, he said that the task force will work to find common ground among the moderate and progressive camps of the party.
“It’s no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences. And we’re not going to paper them over, that’s real,” Sanders said.
There are six subgroups within the task force, covering climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, healthcare and immigration. Each subgroup includes two co-chairs.
US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been tapped to be the co-chair, along with former secretary of state and early Biden supporter John Kerry, to head the climate change task force.
Ocasio-Cortez, an early champion of the Green New Deal, has yet to officially endorse Biden and said last month that the process of unifying the party should be “uncomfortable for everyone”.
Fed chair: Future of economy is ‘highly uncertain’ and ‘subject to significant downside risks’
In a speech this morning, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell warned that Congress may need to approve more spending in order to prevent lasting damage on the US economy.
Powell said that while the US’ response to the crisis has been “both timely and appropriately large”, he noted that “the path ahead is highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks”.
While he did not specify what measures he believes Congress should take to mitigate any potential downfall, he said: “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
He noted that the tradeoff is for elected representatives “who wield powers of taxation and spending”.
Powell’s speech comes in the wake of House Democrats unveiling a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, which includes support for state and local governments, testing of the virus and another round of direct payments to Americans. The package is set to clash against Senate Republicans, who have already voiced opposition to the stimulus bill.
Leaders rush to affirm support of Fauci amid criticism
Leaders are starting to voice their support for Dr. Anthony Fauci after the epidemiologist was slammed yesterday by Fox News and a Republican Senator after testifying at the Senate’s hearing on the US coronavirus response.
Last night, US Republican representative Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, tweeted that Fauci “is one of the finest public servants we’ve ever had.”
“He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus,” she wrote.
Democratic senator Kamala Harris similarly defended Fauci on an appearance on MSNBC last night. “God only knows what kind of repercussions he’s going to face for speaking the truth, but obviously he has the well-being of the American people as his priority, as opposed to the political patronage that his president thinks he’s due,” she said.
Yesterday, Fauci said during the Senate’s hearing that there are serious consequences if cities or states in the United States reopen too quickly: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” he said.
Fauci’s warning contradicts the stance of Trump and Republicans who have been gunning for a swift reopening to save the economy and took Fauci’s statement as a personal attack.
Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, sparred with Fauci during the hearing yesterday when asking the epidemiologist why schools can’t reopen if children are seeing low virus-related death rate.
“As much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make the decision.”
Later, on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson repeated Paul’s criticism of Fauci, saying: “He is not, and no one is, the one person who should be in charge when it comes to making long-term recommendations. This guy, Fauci, may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist.”
More from the key report on CDC gulf with White House
From the start, CDC staffers working on the guidance were uncomfortable tying it specifically to reopening, and voiced their objections to the White House officials tasked with approving the guidance for release, according to a CDC official granted anonymity because they were not cleared to speak with the press, the AP reports.
The CDC’s detailed guidance was eventually shelved by the administration April 30, according to internal government emails and CDC sources who were granted anonymity because they were not cleared to speak to the press.
After the AP reported about the burying of the guidance last week, the White House asked the CDC to revive parts of it, which were sent back for approval, according to emails and interviews.
On Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified before a US Senate committee that the recommendations would be released “soon.” He provided no further details. Internal government emails show that Redfield had repeatedly sought White House approval for CDC’s guidance, starting as early as April 10
Both the CDC document and the White House’s published plan recommend communities reopen in phases as local cases of coronavirus subside.
One of many differences, however, is advice for when communities should allow for the resumption of nonessential travel.
The shelved CDC guide advises communities to avoid all nonessential travel in phases of reopening until the last one, when cases are at the lowest levels.
Even then, the CDC is cautious and advises only a “consideration” of the resumption of nonessential travel after 42 continuous days of declining cases of Covid-19.
The White House plan, by contrast, recommends that communities “minimize” travel in Phase 1, and that in Phase 2, after 28 consecutive days of decline, “Non-essential travel can resume.”
Details on shelved reopen guidance from disease control experts emerge
Advice from the nation’s top disease control experts on how to safely reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic included detailed instructive guidance and more restrictive measures than the plan released by the White House last month.
The guidance, which was shelved by Trump administration officials, also offered recommendations to help communities decide when to shut facilities down again during future flareups of Covid-19.
The Associated Press obtained a 63-page document that is more detailed than other, previously reported segments of the shelved guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It shows how the thinking of the CDC infection control experts differs from those in the White House managing the pandemic response.
The White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan that was released April 17 included some of the CDC’s approach, but made clear that the onus for reopening decisions was solely on state governors and local officials.
By contrast, the organizational tool created by the CDC advocates for a coordinated national response to give community leaders step-by-step instructions to “help Americans re-enter civic life,” with the idea that there would be resurgences of the virus and lots of customization needed.
The White House said last week that the document was a draft and not ready for release.
It contains the kinds of specifics that officials need to make informed decisions, some experts said.
“The White House is pushing for reopening but the truth of the matter is the White House has just not had a comprehensive plan where all the pieces fit. They’re doing it piecemeal,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Such detailed advice should have been available much earlier, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University expert on the spread of diseases.
“Many different places are considering how to safely develop return-to-work procedures. Having more guidance on that earlier on might have been more reassuring to people. And it might have have prevented some cases,” Morse said.
Gap between White House and public health experts grows over safety of reopening
Good morning, US live blog readers, it’s a busy day ahead with all the developments in American politics and coronavirus news. Here are the main topics burning up the air waves, the news wires and the Twitterverse so far, it’s all on the Guardian’s radar, so stay tuned.
- The gap between the White House and America’s leading public health experts is fast growing into a gulf. Anthony Fauci, head of the coronavirus task force, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave a bleak assessment at a Senate hearing yesterday of a pandemic that is still out of control in the US, as Donald Trump pushes the country to reopen – and some high-profile Republicans are siding with those experts. But also today, The Associated Press has put out more details about the CDC plan for safe reopening that was shelved by the White House – detailing how the guidelines from that top federal public health agency differ significantly from the guidelines issued by the White House. We’ll get into all that.
- Covid-19 cases are spreading in America’s heartland, affecting places that had been largely spared before. It’s alarming and it’s affecting many areas that are strongly behind Donald Trump. The Guardian reports.
- Paul Manafort, former Trump 2016 campaign chairman, has this morning reportedly been released from prison, where he was serving time for fraud, according to an ABC News scoop. ABC adds that he had been “serving out his more than seven-year sentence for charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in a federal correctional institution in central Pennsylvania. He was found guilty of tax fraud and conspiracy and was sentenced by a federal judge in March 2019. He was slated to be released from prison November 4, 2024.”
- The US supreme court today will hear oral arguments in a dispute involving whether “electors” in the complex electoral college system that decides the winner of US presidential elections are free to disregard laws directing them to back the candidate who prevails in their state’s popular vote. If enough electors do so, Reuters writes, it could upend an election.