SPLIT SCREEN: MARC CAPUTO in Philadelphia: “Joe Biden took a major step toward clinching the Democratic nomination on Tuesday with three dominant primary victories, including the night’s biggest prize: Michigan.” … DAVID SIDERS: “The night was so debilitating for Bernie Sanders that after retreating to his home state of Vermont on Tuesday, he didn’t even make a speech. In every way other than mathematically, his presidential campaign is done.” The delegate count
TODAY IN CORONAVIRUS … TRUMP OVER A BARREL … AMID THE BACK AND FORTH over the federal response to the coronavirus, this much the top ranks of Republican and Democratic leadership and the White House can agree on: Speaker NANCY PELOSI, once again, has extraordinary leverage over President DONALD TRUMP and the White House. One Republican put it to us this way: PELOSI has TRUMP over a barrel.
HERE’S WHY: TRUMP and his White House are the public faces of the fallout over the deadly virus rippling across the nation, and he needs PELOSI — his nemesis — to cut a deal, and pass a bill. The U.S. just surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases as of Tuesday night.
OF COURSE, PELOSI has a laundry list of priorities of her own. But rarely is the leverage as skewed as it is here.
A BIPARTISAN BILL IS PROBABLY FAR OFF, but there will be immediate action that’s worth keeping an eye on. PELOSI is going to quickly cobble a bill together, present it to Democrats today and put it on the floor Thursday for a vote. This is going to include measures that she has talked about — she’s mentioned bolstered unemployment insurance, food security, paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing — and the thinking is to dare Republicans to vote against it. They might. They might not.
BUT THIS IS JUST THE OPENING ACT OF THIS PLAY. PELOSI has also begun talks with STEVEN MNUCHIN. PELOSI and MNUCHIN are by no means close, but she shares a good relationship with the Treasury secretary and has cut deals with him in the past. MNUCHIN is exchanging paper with the speaker, detailing what the administration is looking for. At the same time, MNUCHIN and Treasury are considering measures they might take unilaterally.
SO, IF A LARGE BIPARTISAN DEAL comes together, it will likely be in days or weeks — not now.
CONVERSATIONS with senior aides, lawmakers and administration officials revealed some overlap in what the administration is looking for and what Democrats want. For example, both the White House and PELOSI are interested in some kind of paid sick leave program. The administration is aiming for 90 days, but it will be forced to take the House’s lead here.
THERE ARE ALSO DIFFERENCES. The administration seems a bit skeptical about new measures to prop up unemployment insurance, because, in part, it tends to think this crisis will not result in an uptick in unemployment applicants. DEMOCRATS, meanwhile, do believe that people will lose their jobs and file for unemployment, and that the program needs reinforcing.
THERE ARE COMPLICATED ELEMENTS, TOO. The administration is going to want stimulus measures for airlines, hotels and transportation-related entities. But the White House seems to want direct cash payments, and that’s going to be tough going on Capitol Hill.
THE NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM IS another huge concern for PELOSI and House Democrats. Tens of millions of children get subsidized or no-cost meals through the program. But what happens if schools are closed? Democrats were wrestling with the issue Tuesday night.
THE PAYROLL TAX CUT — which TRUMP has been trumpeting — is falling out of view, a bit, because House Democrats seem roundly against it, and even Republicans are cool to it. The White House is looking for a six-month payroll tax cut that would sunset in the lame-duck session of Congress. There is also some thinking in the administration that it may be worth saving the payroll tax cut for later in the summer if the economy is still sagging.
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON: IN OUR CONVERSATIONS Tuesday, one influential Republican made sure to tell us that this is not like TARP. No one had suggested it was, so clearly the GOP is feeling anxious about having this branded as a massive bailout.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL is taking a familiar position here: a seat on the sidelines. He said this all needs to get done between PELOSI and the White House.
NEW: Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Sens. PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.) and GARY PETERS (D-Mich.) are readying a letter asking TRUMP to issue a national emergency declaration for the coronavirus. This would allow FEMA to use $40 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund to assist state and local governments in their efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But to the public, it might also signal an escalation to the crisis.
THE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE will hold a press briefing at 5:30 p.m. in the James S. Brady briefing room. And both CDC Director Robert Redfield and acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli are due on Capitol Hill to testify.
Good Wednesday morning.
THE PRACTICAL IMPACT — WSJ’S KATE DAVIDSON, RICHARD RUBIN and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “U.S. Treasury Likely to Push Back April 15 Tax Filing Deadline, Sources Say”: “The Trump administration is likely to extend the April 15 tax deadline as part of an effort to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus on U.S. households and businesses, according to an administration official and another person familiar with the matter.
“Neither the decision to extend the deadline nor the mechanics of how such an extension might work are yet final. Normally, individuals must pay their prior year’s taxes by April 15 or face penalties and interest charges. People can already get extensions through mid-October to file their returns as long as they have paid on time by mid-April. This decision would go further than that.
“Extending the tax filing deadline would effectively act as a bridge loan for individuals and businesses facing disruptions from the virus. Treasury officials are still considering how far the filing deadline may be pushed back and who would be eligible for the extension, according to the person familiar with the discussions.”
TWO BIG POLITICO STORIES:
— DAN DIAMOND: “Exclusive: Email crash impeded HHS response to coronavirus”: “As health department officials worked quickly to negotiate an emergency funding package to fight the spreading coronavirus outbreak on Feb. 23, they came to a frustrating realization: Their email system had crashed. The outage in the Health and Human Services secretary’s office stretched on much of the day, with some messages delayed up to 11 hours, creating frustration and slowing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.
“The HHS officials soon discovered the culprit: An email test conducted by the team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a branch of the health department that hadn’t briefed HHS leaders or alerted the department’s chief information officer before sending thousands of messages through their shared system. Although it was a Sunday, top officials were negotiating with the White House over a soon-to-be-announced coronavirus funding plan and tackling other urgent decisions — which were interrupted by the email outage.
“The previously unreported episode was the latest in a series of information technology snafus caused by the department’s Medicare branch dating back more than a year. This time, HHS decided to remove the agency’s control over its own email operations and launch an audit of its entire information technology infrastructure.
“The episode has exacerbated tensions inside a department that’s already been split by intense fights between HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS chief Seema Verma while it strains to coordinate the government’s response to the viral outbreak.” POLITICO
— DAVID LIM and BRIANNA EHLEY: “Exclusive: U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials”
MARKET WATCH — “Global Markets Buffeted Again by Virus Concerns,” by WSJ’s Frances Yoon and Anna Isaac: “U.S. stock futures and Treasury yields fell on Wednesday, pointing to sustained doubts about the ability of governments and central banks to combat the economic headwinds caused by the coronavirus.
“Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2%, suggesting U.S. stocks could open lower Wednesday. European stock markets opened higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 rising 1.3%. The U.K.’s benchmark FTSE 100 was also up 1.2%, shortly after an unexpected rate cut by the Bank of England.” WSJ
WHAT METRO IS SAYING: “In addition to the measures Metro takes every day, we’ve stepped up deep cleaning and disinfecting railcars, stations, bathrooms, buses, and MetroAccess vehicles. Our staged pandemic response plan includes preparing for any service changes that may be required based on the CDC’s guidance and regional public health requirements for our employees and customers. We are mindful that Metro provides essential services, and the health and safety of our workforce and the communities we serve are paramount as this situation evolves.”
BIDEN’S NOT-SO-MINI TUESDAY …
— NYT NEWS ANALYSIS: “Joe Biden Is Poised to Deliver the Biggest Surprise of 2020: A Short, Orderly Primary,” by Matt Flegenheimer and Katie Glueck: “The state of our union is unsettled, chaotic, impossible to pin down. The state of the Democratic primary, improbably, is not.
“With a string of commanding victories on Tuesday — Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, probably any other ‘M’ state that might have bothered with a primary this week — Joe Biden appears poised to complete one of the most striking turnarounds in recent campaign memory, finding himself in a dominant position only 10 days after the first state victory of his three presidential runs. His remarkable reversal has banished Senator Bernie Sanders to a familiar electoral perch: an insurgent progressive long shot straining to catch an establishment favorite.”
— WAPO’S DAN BALZ: “The campaign for the Democratic nomination has moved at warp speed over the past 10 days, and on Tuesday night it reached a decisive turning point. Barring something unforeseen, Democrats now know that former vice president Joe Biden will be the party’s nominee to challenge President Trump in November.”
— NATASHA KORECKI: “Democrats weigh how to nudge Sanders out after Tuesday losses”
MARIANNE LEVINE: “Sen. Murphy seeks to probe agencies of political bias in Hunter Biden requests”: “Sen. Chris Murphy is requesting an investigation into whether certain federal agencies are demonstrating political bias by complying with Republican-led requests related to Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
“In a letter set to be sent Wednesday to inspectors general for the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Archives, the Connecticut Democrat expressed concern that the agencies were cooperating with Republican-led investigations connected to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. But he said those same agencies didn’t comply with congressional investigations into President Donald Trump.” POLITICO
BIG PICTURE — JOHN HARRIS COLUMN: “Biden and Trump: Don’t Stop Thinking About Yesterday”: “At a transformative moment in history — when the onrush of changes in climate, technology, demography, and global balance-of-power are creating a new generation of urgent policy challenges in the United States and around the world — the 2020 race now promises to be effectively devoid of new ideas.
“Instead, this promises to be a race above all about character and personal qualities. It will be waged by old men — age 73 for the incumbent, age 77 for the presumptive challenger — whose essential worldviews were formed decades ago and whose essential instincts and preoccupations are backward-looking.”
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:15 p.m. in the Oval Office. He will hold a coronavirus response meeting with bankers at 3 p.m. in the Cabinet Room. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will leave the White House at 6:45 p.m. en route to the U.S. Naval Observatory to have dinner with VP Mike Pence and Karen Pence. Afterward, the Trumps will return to the White House at 8:30 p.m.
WHAT PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN ARE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT … @washingtonian: “Breaking tonite: Per email to parents, @NatCathedralSch @BeauvoirDC & @StAlbans_STA, elite private schools, closing over #coronavirus, citing ‘abundance of caution.’ Spring break is next week, so technically just starting break early. No schedule change announced re end of break.”
— “Gridiron Dinner, an annual D.C. tradition, canceled over coronavirus concerns,” by Caitlin Oprysko: “The spring dinner, which would have drawn around 600 attendees, has taken place almost every year since 1885, club historian and National Journal White House correspondent George Condon said. Only during World War I in 1918 and World War II in 1942 did the dinner not take place, but Condon said he could find no record of the event ever getting canceled for public health reasons, including during the 1918 influenza pandemic.”
ACROSS THE POND — “My life in Italian isolation,” by Silvia Sciorilli-Borrelli: “We sat 1 meter apart from each other, as per the health authorities’ guidelines, five on each side of the 2-meter-wide table. It was a first. During main course, I apologized and said I had to turn on the television. By the time Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the whole country was being shut down, the guests — all, excluding myself, in their sixties and seventies — had lost their appetite and the celebration was over.” POLITICO Europe … AP: “Italy passes 10,000 infections”
— PROTOCOL is tracking how the virus is affecting life in Silicon Valley and among tech firms.
HMMM — “Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence,” by NYT’s Julian Barnes, Nick Fandos and Adam Goldman: “Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors on Tuesday that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence.
“‘The I.C. has not concluded that the Kremlin is directly aiding any candidate’s re-election or any other candidates’ election,’ an unclassified summary given to lawmakers said, using shorthand for the intelligence community. ‘Nor have we concluded that the Russians will definitely choose to try to do so in 2020.’” NYT
— WAPO: “On Tuesday, senators also were disconcerted that [acting DNI Richard] Grenell, as the head of the intelligence community, was not present, said one of the people briefed on the session. The heads of other agencies, including acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, were there, and Grenell had been scheduled to appear, according to a list of participants circulated to lawmakers on Monday.
“But Grenell declined to go to the Hill, citing apprehension about his preparedness to address sensitive subjects that tend to upset the president, according to three people familiar with the matter.”
TWISTING THE KNIFE — “Trump endorses Sessions’ opponent in Alabama Senate primary,” by James Arkin: “President Donald Trump spurned Jeff Sessions and endorsed Tommy Tuberville in the Alabama Senate race Tuesday, an enormous blow to Trump’s former attorney general, whom he had excoriated for recusing from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
“The endorsement of Tuberville is a major boost for the former Auburn University football coach three weeks before the primary runoff between the two Republicans. Tuberville earned the top spot in last week’s primary, narrowly edging out Sessions but falling well short of the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.” POLITICO
CLICKER — THE DAILY BEAST’S SAM STEIN: “Meet the Insane People Still Planning Cruise Ship Vacations”
WOMEN RULE — ANNA sat down with KATIA BEAUCHAMP, co-founder and CEO of BIRCHBOX, for a live Women Rule podcast taping last week as part of the 10th annual International Women’s Day Forum. Listen and subscribe … Story by Zack Stanton
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
TRANSITIONS — Leslie Shedd is now comms director for the House Foreign Affairs GOP. She most recently was an SVP at Firehouse Strategies. … Michaela Sundermann is now press secretary for the House Homeland Security GOP. She previously was digital director for Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
BIRTHWEEK (was Monday): Bailey La Sage, deputy comms director and digital director for Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) (h/t Travis Hall)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Amy Weiss, CEO of Weiss Public Affairs. A fun fact people might not know about her: “In the mid-’80s, I was studying in London and got tickets to dance on stage at ‘Top of the Pops’ (the U.K. version of ‘Soul Train’ or ‘American Bandstand’ — two of my favorite programs as a kid). I danced on air to the Fine Young Cannibals’ song ‘Blue.’ Except for my trip to Liverpool to do the Beatles tour, it was the highlight of my semester.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rupert Murdoch is 89 … Michael Holley … Curt Cashour … Perri Peltz … MC Gonzalez Noguera, SVP of global public affairs at Estée Lauder … Sam Donaldson is 86 … Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (h/t Kelly Laco) … Matt Sobocinski … Ben Becker of Precision Strategies … Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey … Claire Burghoff of Cornerstone Government Affairs … Jen Mullin, VP of public affairs at Exelon … NBC News’ Miguel Almaguer … Austin Carson … former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is 66 … Justin Weaver … CNN’s Emily Riley … Nick Shapiro, VP and global head of trust and safety at Lime … Jason Herbert … former Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is 58 …
… Christina Arvanites, producer at MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell … Roll Call’s Micaela Rodríguez … James Pollack … Jon Schneider … Laura Zimmerman (h/t Jon Haber) … Suzanne Hammelman … Charles McElwee is 31 … Michal Grayevsky … Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and NPR political contributor … Nik Holtan … Allison Muehlenbeck … Joe Quinn, VP of public affairs at the Aluminum Association, is 42 … Haley Viccaro … Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson … Nikki Budzinski … Rachel Dodsworth … Cookie McCarton … State’s Jeff Hayes … NEA’s Carrie Pugh … Tripp Wellde … Lars Florio is 51 … Tim Mack, press secretary for Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) … Virginia state Del. Will Wampler (h/t Mary Trigiani)