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Senate adjourns without extending expiring unemployment benefits

The Senate has adjourned until 3 p.m. on Monday, as Congress failed to reach an agreement on extending unemployment benefits that are set to expire on Friday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of Americans are out of work and have been receiving $600 per week on top of their regular unemployment payments. That money has been used both to pay expenses and to prop up the broader economy via consumer spending.


The state of play: Congress and the Trump administration are still painfully deadlocked over the next stimulus bill, with at least 20 Senate Republicans pledging to vote "no" on another massive relief package no matter what.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) attempted Thursday afternoon to unanimously pass a short-term extension of the benefits at a reduced level of $200 per week, which was summarily rejected by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
  • Schumer then attempted to pass the $3 trillion relief bill that House Democrats approved in May. That, too, was blocked and condemned by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as a "totally unserious proposal."

Between the lines: "The legislative shenanigans were not meant to actually enact policy, but rather to help further the political blame game as Congress prepared to leave town without an agreement," the Washington Post notes.

The big picture: The staggering 32.9% contraction in annualized GDP last quarter quantifies just how big a hole the U.S. economy is in — dwarfing the previous record set in 1958, when GDP shrank at an annualized 10% rate.

  • If it wasn’t clear before today, the economy is going to need support to dig its way out. And that assumes we don’t fall back in, which may already be happening as the coronavirus surge forces some states to clamp down again.
  • "The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus," Fed chair Jerome Powell said yesterday. "It's so fundamental."

Zoom out: When the U.S. shut down its economy and passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, a GDP contraction of this size was not out of the realm of possibilities, notes former Treasury official Tony Fratto.

  • What nobody was projecting was that weekly unemployment claims would still be running at 1.4 million in July — the product of a failed coronavirus response.

The bottom line: More than 30 million Americans could see their incomes drop 50%–75% when the unemployment benefits expire.

Clinton and Warren speaking the same night at Dem convention

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton both are slated to speak on the Wednesday of the Democratic convention — Aug. 19 — four sources familiar with the planning told Axios.

Why it matters: That's the same night Joe Biden's running mate (to be revealed next week) will address the nation. Clinton and Warren represent two of the most influential wise-women of Democratic politics with the potential to turn out millions of establishment and progressive voters in November.

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Trump says he's considering order on pre-existing condition protections, which already exists

President Trump announced on Friday he will pursue an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, something that is already law.

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act already requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down that very law — including its pre-existing condition protections.

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Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid

President Trump, speaking from a podium at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Friday announced that he is prepared to issue executive orders suspending payroll taxes and extending enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of 2020, and halting student loan interest and payments indefinitely.

Why it matters: The impending orders come after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon. But Trump said he remains committed to striking a deal with Congress on a broader stimulus package before signing the orders.

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Trump affirms: "We are going a different way" on coronavirus aid

President Trump tweeted on Friday that his administration is "going a different way" with coronavirus aid after negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled again, suggesting he will use an executive order to address stimulus spending.

What he's saying: "Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way!" Trump tweeted.

Trump's swift, sweeping China offensive

President Trump's rhetoric on China has tended to run hotter than his actions — until now.

Why it matters: Even at the height of Trump's trade war, his administration never hit China as hard, as fast, and on as many fronts as it is right now.

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Liberty University's Jerry Falwell Jr. agrees to “indefinite leave of absence”

Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University after posting a photo of himself with unzipped pants and an arm around a woman on social media, according to the school.

The state of play: The picture, which has since been deleted, drew backlash and charges of hypocrisy from conservative political figures because the university's honor code strictly prohibits students from having "sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage," and recommends they dress with“appropriateness” and “modesty."

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White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Trump should sign executive orders unilaterally addressing coronavirus stimulus spending after negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled again on Friday.

Why it matters: Friday was viewed as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a new relief bill. But after an intense week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal on delivering much needed aid to Americans and businesses.

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Counterintelligence chief: Russia aiming to “denigrate” Biden ahead of election

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate former Vice President Biden" before the November election.

Why it matters: Evanina warned that some Kremlin-linked actors are trying to support President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television, while others are spreading false claims about corruption to undermine Biden and the Democratic Party.

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