I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, March 12, 2020. 3 days until the next Democratic debate. 237 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Trump orders European travel ban to combat coronavirus
In a rare Oval Office address on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced plans to suspend most travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The travel ban, which will not apply to the United Kingdom, takes effect on Friday.

“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus. We made a life-saving move with early action on China,” Trump said, referring to his February restriction on travel to the country where the coronavirus outbreak originated. “Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the wellbeing of America first.”

Soon after Trump concluded his remarks, the White House was forced to make several clarifications about the policy. Although Trump said the ban would prohibit “all travel” from Europe, the administration later clarified that only travel by foreign nationals will be impacted — legal permanent residents and family members of U.S. citizens won’t be affected — and only travel from the 26 countries in the Schengen Area (which includes France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and others) will be prohibited. 

In addition, although the president said the order would “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” the White House later said that it would not. 

Trump's decision landed as a surprise to governments in Europe, and it provoked a swift rebuke by the European Commission (the governing body of the European Union) this morning. “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” it said. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

The 30-day travel ban has already sent European stocks plunging this morning as travelers scrambled for a path forward. For Trump, the somber speech marked a shift in messaging, after spending most of the previous weeks falsely insisting that the coronavirus was no worse than the seasonal flu and that it would die down soon.

The president's primetime speech — only his second delivered from the Oval Office since taking office — came hours after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. The effects of the virus could quickly be seen in all sectors of American life, as stocks crumbled on Wall Street, the NBA suspended its season indefinitely, and actor Tom Hanks announced his diagnosis. 

In the political realm, the Biden, Sanders, and Trump campaigns have all began canceling events, while the Democratic National Committee announced that the Biden-Sanders debate in Phoenix in Sunday would move forward without a live audience. Tours of the U.S. Capitol were halted after a congressional staffer tested positive for the virus. 

House Democrats unveiled a legislative stimulus package late Wednesday aimed at dampening the impact of coronavirus on the U.S. economy. The legislation, which is expected to receive a vote today, would implement federal paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expanded unemployment insurance, and food security assistance. President Trump backed some of those proposals in his primetime address, although he also urged Congress to “provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief,” an idea that has been panned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

According to Axios, Congress’ in-house physician told staffers at a closed-door meeting this week that he expects 70 to 150 million people in the United States (roughly a third of the country) to contract the coronavirus. Asked at a congressional hearing on Wednesday if the “worst is yet to come,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, replied: “Yes, it is.”

“I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” Fauci added. “How much worse we’ll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country.”

“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse.”
The Rundown
Sanders to continue campaign against rising Biden: “Bernie Sanders on Wednesday announced he will continue his campaign for president after disappointing losses in slate of state primaries, vowing to participate in a debate this weekend with Joe Biden.”

“‘Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,’ Sanders acknowledged in an address delivered from his campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.”

“But ‘while we are currently losing the delegate count’ in the race for the Democratic nomination, ‘we are strongly winning in two enormously important areas which will determine the future of our country,’ Sanders said, claiming broad public support for his proposals and noting the lack of enthusiasm Biden has elicited among younger voters.” (Politico)

--- “Biden campaign memo says it’s ‘nearly impossible for Sanders’ to make up delegate disadvantage” (CNN)

Major votes on Capitol Hill: “The House voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on Wednesday after reaching a bipartisan deal that includes several reforms just days before the measure is set to expire. The measure was renewed with a bipartisan vote of 278 to 136.” (CBS News)

--- “The House of Representatives passed a [Senate-approved] resolution that would limit the president’s ability to take military action against Iran without approval from Congress. The measure passed 227-186, sending the bill to the president’s desk. Six Republicans voted with Democrats in favor. While it directs President Trump to end the use of military force against Iran unless authorized by Congress, it doesn’t prevent the U.S. from defending itself against an imminent attack.” (Wall Street Journal)

--- “In a bipartisan rebuke, the Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn a major Trump administration rule that would sharply limit debt relief for students misled by schools that lured them in with false claims about their graduates’ career and earning prospects. In a 53-to-42 vote that included 10 Republicans, the Senate struck down a revised Education Department rule completed in September by the department’s secretary, Betsy DeVos. The House passed a companion resolution in January. The legislation will now go to President Trump, who will decide whether to uphold the rule with a veto or side with Congress over his own education secretary.” (New York Times)

Trump snubs ex-AG in Alabama Senate endorsement: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday night spurned his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to endorse former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.”

“Trump announced his support for Tuberville in a tweet. ‘He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!’ Trump wrote. Trump did not mention Sessions in the tweet.”

“Tuberville and Sessions are competing in the March 31 Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, the current incumbent, in November.” (Associated Press)

President Donald Trump will meet with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland in celebration of St. Patrick's Day and receive his daily intelligence briefing. According to the White House, Trump and Varadkar “will discuss how to strengthen relations between the United States and Ireland, including the robust economic and cultural ties and joint commitment to maintain the gains of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at a breakfast celebration in honor of Prime Minister Varadkar, participate in the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Varadkar, and lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting.

The Senate will vote on confirmation of James P. Danly to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The House will vote on H.R. 62091, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will host Prime Minister Varadkar for the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol. For the first time since its inception in 1987, neither the president nor the vice president will attend the bipartisan event; a White House spokesman said Trump and Pence declined invitations due to Pelosi's “actions and her rhetoric.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the coronavirus in Wilmington, Delaware. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has no public events scheduled. 
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