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President Trump joined a Republican Senate luncheon Tuesday, where he defended his reported use of controversial antimalarial medication hydroxychloroquine. He also said he would temporarily waive regulations that could complicate business openings or slow economic growth. Meanwhile, senators from the two parties diverged on when and how to provide more pandemic relief. Yamiche Alcindor reports.
Two different pandemic plotlines are playing out in Washington tonight. The president is defending his use of a drug that has not been approved for COVID-19, and Congress is focused on the relief money that it already approved, and whether it should approve more.
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.
Washington remains under lockdown.
But, today, President Trump was out and about. He visited the U.S. Capitol without wearing a mask to meet with Republican senators. He also defended taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine. The drug has potentially dangerous side effects, and it is unproven against COVID-19.
But President Trump dismissed warnings that his actions send a dangerous message.
President Donald Trump:
I think it gives you an additional level of safety. But you can ask many doctors are in favor of it. Many front-line workers won't go there unless they have the hydroxy. And so, again, this is an individual decision to make.
Later, at a Cabinet meeting, he spoke again.
It doesn't seem to have any impact on me, but it seems to be a extra line of defense.
Meanwhile, Vice President Pence told FOX News he is not taking hydroxychloroquine.
The president also announced he would sign an executive order directing government agencies to identify any regulations that can be temporarily waived to reopen the economy and promote growth.
On an economic front, the Senate has begun negotiations on a new economic relief package, though partisan divisions are squarely on display.
Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida:
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.:
If it's to help small businesses that don't have access to capital, I want to be helpful for them. But if it's to continue to spend money without any accountability, I'm not — I'm going to oppose it.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats say the next bill must help workers, as well as hard-hit state and local governments.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:
Are they for aid to state and local governments? Are they for so many of the things in the bill, more money for hospitals, more help for testing, more money for PPE?
At a Senate hearing, conducted via videoconference, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell pledged that a lending program for towns, cities and states will be available by the end of the month.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended efforts to have businesses reopen, under questioning by Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.:
The longer that we continue a shutdown, when weeks turn into months, doesn't that necessarily increase the risk?
Secretary Steven Mnuchin:
There's the risk of permanent damage.
And, as I have said before, we're conscious of the health issues, and we want to do this in a balanced and safe way.
But Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown argued more should be done to protect workers:
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio:
The president says, reopen slaughterhouses, nothing about slowing the line down, nothing about protective equipment.
Is — how many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or Dow Jones by 1,000 points?
No worker should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair. We have provided enormous amounts of equipment.
Meanwhile, at another White House event today, President Trump threatened a permanent end to U.S. funding to the World Health Organization. It has already been suspended temporarily.
They have to be much more fair to other countries, including the United States, or we're not going to be involved with them anymore.
Late Monday, the president sent the WHO a letter accusing the group of letting China's influence deter efforts to prevent the pandemic.
All the while, the virus continues its rampage. In Northwest India today, people stood in line waiting for COVID-19 tests, as cases in the country reached 100,000. And Vietnam looked to jump-start its economy by pushing for more domestic travel. The country has banned foreign visitors, and its tourism industry has suffered greatly.
Tran Van Doan (through translator):
There are a few domestic tourists, but their spending, on average, is significantly lower than that of foreign tourists. The truth is, the situation is tough, really tough.
The story is much the same the world over, adding to the pressure that grows daily to reopen.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
The Congressional Budget Office today released the latest look at economic damage from the pandemic.
It predicted the economy will contract this quarter at an annual rate of nearly 38 percent. The agency said it could take until 2021 to recover fully.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, the optimism that drove Monday's rally gave way to new doubts. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 390 points to close at 24206. The Nasdaq fell 49 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 31.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the former White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour.
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