Trump: U.S. could take equity stake in bailouts
Congress works on aid bill as public is warned not to travel abroad
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday the government should take an equity stake in companies bailed out in the coronavirus pandemic, a step that would mark an extraordinary federal reach into the private sector.
He also held out hope that treatments for COVID-19 might be at hand, voicing far more optimism about quick therapies than federal scientists have expressed.
Trump sought to calm the public’s fears as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. climbed above 11,000, with at least 168 deaths. He gave an upbeat promotion of therapeutic drugs in early testing that he said could be “a game-changer and maybe not” in treating those suffering with COVID-19.
But the head of the Food and
Drug Administration cautioned that the drugs were still being tested for their effectiveness and safety, a process that takes months and may or may not yield anything.
Meanwhile the State Department issued an alert warning Americans not to travel abroad under any circumstances and to return home if they are already outside the country, unless they plan to stay there.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers worked urgently to fashion a $1 trillion aid package to prop up households and the
U.S. economy, starting with a White House proposal to send Americans direct aid, potentially $3,000 for a family of four.
Congress also is working to increase production of medical supplies and build temporary field hospitals under new authorities Trump invoked in the
Defense Production Act.
Republicans want to have small businesses send paychecks to workers being forced to stay home — through government assistance that would not have to be repaid. They also want to shore up airlines and other industries, but those loans would have to be paid back. Democrats are exploring “unemployment insurance on steroids.”
More than eight weeks after the first U.S. case of the virus was detected, the federal government is still struggling to conduct wide-scale testing. Compounding the problem, laboratories are reporting shortages of supplies needed to protect health care workers and ventilators that are used to treat respiratory symptoms of the virus.
For most people, COVID-19
causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Trump called the battle against coronavirus a “medical war” not a “financial war.” But he said he believed the U.S. government should take equity stakes in some companies hard hit by the pandemic and aided by taxpayers. Some Republicans in Congress worry this could lead to the government picking winners and losers.
“We will be helping the airline industry,” he said. “We will be helping the cruise ship industry. We probably will be helping the hotel industry.” He said administration will also help small businesses, the “engine of the country.”
But he suggested that such federal aid should not be used by companies to buy back their stock, and he said he would support restrictions on executive bonuses and future buybacks from companies receiving the federal support.
On the medical front, Trump and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug
Administration commissioner, described several approaches to treatment under testing. Among them: chloroquine, a drug long used to treat malaria; remdesivir, an experimental antiviral that’s being tried in at least five separate studies; antibodies culled from the blood of COVID-19 patients when they recover.
Chloroquine is widely available already and could be used off-label, but Hahn said officials want a formal study to get good information on whether it helps people with COVID-19 and is safe. No new and imminent treatments were announced at the briefing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed direct payments of $1,200 per person and $2,400 for couples as part of a sweeping Republican response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by The Associated Press.
The GOP leader unveiled his plan Thursday as Congress raced to craft a $1 trillion rescue package to shore up households, healthcare and the U.S. economy amid the pandemic crisis and nationwide shutdown that’s hurtling the country toward a likely recession.
“We need to take bold and swift action as soon as possible,” McConnell, announcing his plan on the Senate floor.
Under the GOP leader’s plan, the aid would be phased down at income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple. Additionally, there would be $500 payments for each child.
But Democrats have their own proposals for ushering aid to Americans, and even McConnell’s GOP senators panned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s idea of direct checks of $3,000 for a family of four — preferring instead to use the federal dollars to keep workers who are asked to stay home on the business payrolls.
Trump administration officials, including Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow, are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Friday to launch bipartisan negotiations with Senate Democrats.
The Treasury secretary said Thursday the checks would be direct-deposited into people’s accounts under the plan the Trump administration has proposed to Congress.
The payments would be $1,000 per adult and $500 per child so that a family of two parents and two children would receive $3,000, Mnuchin told Fox Business
Network. The goal is to get that money out in three weeks, he said.
States need more federal funding and increased access to test kits, ventilators and other supplies to fight the coronavirus, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
Hogan spoke on behalf of the National Governors Association at a news conference at his residence in Annapolis, Md. Hogan, who is chair of the NGA, held a conference call with other governors Wednesday and compiled a list of five immediate needs from the federal government.
“We need all levels of government working together to get through this crisis,” said Hogan, a Republican.
Governors want maximum flexibility for the use of the National Guard and more guidance on how the Defense Production Act will be implemented, he said. The act, invoked by Trump on Wednesday, gives the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense.
Hogan said governors also are requesting a delay or greater flexibility for completing the 2020 census and the transition to Real ID.
President Donald Trump on Thursday touted therapeutic drugs now in early testing for use in combating the coronavirus, but federal health officials warned that the process will take months.