Trump 'Fully Supports' House Coronavirus Bill; Vote Expected Tonight

Update (2045ET): President Trump now says he 'fully supports' H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on this evening.

"This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers," Trump tweeted, adding that he has "directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt."

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Update (1935ET): The White House says they're still reviewing the bill and that no deal has been reached.

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Update (1815ET): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House Democrats and the Trump administration have reached a deal on a response package late Friday following several days of negotiations. The package includes paid emergency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, as well as "enhanced Unemployment Insurance."

The deal also includes enhancing the SNAP program for nutrition, as well as student meals, seniors' nutrition and food banks, and increased federal funds for Medicaid."

"We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act," reads a statement from Pelosi to Democratic colleagues.

"We have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take strong, serious action to confront and control this crisis," the note continues. "This legislation is about testing, testing, testing. To stop the spread of the virus, we have secured free coronavirus testing for anyone who needs a test, including the uninsured."


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Update (1630ET): WIth the press increasingly desperate to 'corner' President Trump on the issue of testing, one reporter suggested that the president might be acting selfishly by not submitting to a test, drawing audible gasps from the crowd. In response, Trump said he probably would be tested 'at some point'. Clearly caught off guard by the reporter's audaciously loaded question, we suspect he didn't think to reply "when and if my doctors say so". Instead, he stammered out a reply that it would probably happen soon, before dismissing her, then calling on VP Pence and Dr. Birx to explain the issue again.

The reporter who asked the question clearly intended it to be some kind of 'statement', because she sent this tweet minutes after.

No disrespect, ma'am, but the press is pretending like Trump is doing this solely out of arrogance and braggadocio. Sure, that might be one reason. But there's a very sensible reason for Trump to make sure that if he is infected, nobody ever finds out, at least not until much later.

Apparently, this reporter doesn't realize what that headline would do to the retirement savings of millions of Americans. He's not being selfish, he's protecting his base, and all middle-class Americans, really.

Then again, we suspect she might understand this, but the 'selfish' narrative is more politically and editorially convenient.

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Update (1610ET): Of course, the first question out of the press corp was about the rescue bill that is reportedly foundering in the House.

President Trump said Democrats weren't "giving enough" and he insisted that "they're not doing what's right for the country." Asked what other measures the administration will be taking - like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, earlier this is just 'inning two' of the response ' Trump said his administration would be releasing a "paper" in 2 hours outlining more targeted efforts planned by the federal government.

In response to a question about testing, Trump called on Dr. Fauci, who explained that the administration's partnerships with the private sector are helping it to enable the FDA and CDC to adapt and be ready for any similar highly contagious outbreaks in the future that are largely nurtured abroad before traveling to the US.

"The system is not designed for what we need, now looking forward, the system will take care of it," Dr. Fauci said.

A question from what we can only assume is a Chinese state media reporter (we didn't catch the credential) asked if the administration had found the data shared by China to be "helpful". Despite the fact that Secretary Pompeo recently slammed the Chinese for withholding information and critical data about the virus, Trump assured the reporter that China had been "very helpful" to the US in fighting the virus.

Asked whether his decision not to take the test was sending a message to senators who had decided to self-quarantine, Trump replied that there are "many doctors" in the White House, and they said he doesn't need to because he's not showing symptoms. For whatever reason, no matter how many times Trump has repeated this answer (what's he supposed to do, hang out in the Residence Bedroom all day?), the press has continued to hammer him with it.

Pressed to offer a timeline for the outbreak, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx explained that it could take 'months' for the outbreak to run its course.

However, if the US is successful in slowing the outbreak, the 'peak' could pass in 8-9 weeks, or even less. And remember, we're already a few weeks into this thing.

Finally, a reporter asked Trump about the "fake news" coming from China blaming the US for the outbreak, and claiming it originated in America.

"They're going to be buying $250 billion wort h of goods its a good deal for our country. I did read one article but I don't think that article was representative...judging by my conversations with PResident Xi. They know where it came from. We all know where it came from."

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Update (1535ET): President Trump has just proved that he doesn't need the Democrats and is taking charge by declaring a national emergency giving him access to $40 billion in funding, plus much more capacity to act.

Instead of partnering with the Democrats, who have erected hurdles for from the beginning by turning the debate over virus relief into a political hot potato, Trump and the federal government will partner with the private sector to provide millions of tests, cover the cost of care for millions of Americans, and facilitate the government's containment effort - all without the involvement of Congress.

The declaration will allow FEMA to tap into some $40 billion in funding and mobilize personnel more quickly, while helping state and local leaders respond.

Trump also announced additional efforts to address the virus, including urging states to set up emergency operation centers and hospitals, as well as active-preparedness plans. He unveiled partnerships with private companies to increase testing capabilities and treatment. He even said the administration was working to set up drive-thru test sites (like this one set up by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.). Gov. Cuomo said earlier that NY had set up its first such clinic, and experts claim that 'drive thru' clinics are an option to greatly speed up testing and examinations.

"I am officially declaring a national emergency - two very big words," Trump said in remarks in the Rose Garden, adding that the move would release up to $50 billion dollars in federal aid.

He also listed off a list of steps the government is taking to combat the virus and provide testing and care.

After he finished, Trump brought out Dr Deborah Birx, who, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, calmly explained to the public the reasons for the delay, outlined the immense effort that has been undertaken behind the scenes for the federal government to 'catch up' and essentially repudiated reports claiming to offer proof that the administration had botched the effort.

Then Dr. Fauci came on, and explained how the governments efforts would clear up the red tape to allow state and local authorities to take charge.

"People at the state and local level...will have as many constraints as possible removed so they can do everything they can and we can do many of the things we've talked about...that curve that goes up....we don't want to have that curve...we want to suppress it down to a small mound," he said.

"We still have  a long way to go, we still have a lot of cases, but this will help it to end."

Trump returned to the podum after Dr. Fauci, and announced a few additional measures including waiving interest payments on student loans, since "many of those schools have closed." Instead of a full-on bailout for the energy industry, Trump said the US would buy a large amount of oil for the 'national oil reserve.' He then launched into a riff about oil prices, before, perhaps having realized he had gone off track, he asked VP Mike Pence to say a few words and lay out the actions of the task force.

Pence reiterated that the Trump travel ban would take effect at midnight tonight and returning citizens would be screened if they had traveled to any of the hot zones.

Still, we could almost hear the beleaguered crude bulls cry with joy as the price of WTI shot higher on Trump's announcement.

Before he signed off, Trump offered a heart-felt assurance to the public that their federal government is working to help them.

"We will succeed, we will prevail, we will be very, very successful, and we will learn for the future," he said.

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President Trump is set to hold a news conference at 3pmET to discuss the coronavirus as cases and deaths soar in the US.

The virus has killed at least 40 Americans and there are more than 1,700 cases nationwide as of Friday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

And set to get worse...

Bloomberg News reported he plans to declare a national emergency, a move that had been under consideration for some time.

As The Hill reports, declaring a national emergency would allow wider use of federal funds by state and local authorities, some of which have been overwhelmed by the fast-moving coronavirus.

The press conference will come as House lawmakers are likely to vote on sweeping legislation to provide financial help to victims.

We suspect Trump will also take this opportunity to blast the Obama administration (he spent part of Friday morning lashing out at them over its response to the swine flu), The Fed (for failing to take stronger action on the economy), and the current Democrats (he tweeted this morning that because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths related to CoronaVirus. If we had weak or open borders, that number would be many times higher!).

Watch Live (due to start at 3pmET):