On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
67°
Partly Cloudy
H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    67°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Evening
    Mostly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

News
Virus poses a test: Can fractured Washington still 'go big'?
Close

Virus poses a test: Can fractured Washington still 'go big'?

Virus poses a test: Can fractured Washington still 'go big'?
Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
People walk among U.S. flags with the U.S. Capitol in the background, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress has started work on a new coronavirus aid package after the one just approved by the House early Saturday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Virus poses a test: Can fractured Washington still 'go big'?

The fast-moving coronavirus upending every facet of American life is testing whether Washington, a capital city fractured by years of bitter partisanship and inaction, can still do big things.

Not since the Great Recession of 2008, and before that the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001, has the federal government attempted to mount such an ambitious response to an emergency, and so quickly. The country’s once-revered, now often-maligned institutions — from the White House to Congress to the Federal Reserve — are being summoned into action.

It starts with a massive $1 trillion rescue package that includes sending $1,000 checks to Americans, with a goal of pushing it through Congress and onto President Donald Trump’s desk in a matter of days.

What Washington’s leaders do, or fail to do, will shape the road ahead for millions of anxious Americans who are suddenly facing a deeply uncertain future.

“The consequences of inaction are tremendous,” said Sara Binder, a professor at George Washington University and scholar at the Brookings Institution. “For both parties.”

Washington, particularly Congress, hasn’t done big things for a long time, ground down by partisan infighting, polarizing extremes and an increasingly skeptical public. The erosion of trust in government and civic institutions has sapped the energy to, as Trump asked, “go big.”

When Washington has tackled major policy endeavors in recent years, it’s often been along party lines.

President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation passed Congress in 2010 with only Democratic votes. In 2017, Republicans muscled through a sweeping tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and big businesses with only GOP support. Late last year, the Democratic House voted to impeach Trump, while the Republican Senate voted to acquit.

The result: Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi don’t talk much anymore, and Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader McConnell talk only as needed.

Trump has deepened the toxicity, bashing Pelosi and other congressional leaders with cruel nicknames and publicly humiliating members of his own party who stray. Republicans, who were once skeptical and uncomfortable with Trump as their party leader, now rally around him with near unanimity, resigned to his stranglehold on the same voters they need to back their own political campaigns.

But in this moment, Trump needs more than just Republicans. He’s relying on the leaders of both major political parties — and them on each other — to confront one of the most difficult tasks any of them has faced in public office.

Lawmakers in both parties declared this week that Washington is indeed up to the challenge. Crises tend to bring out the muscle memory.

“History shows Congress has the capacity to step up and do big things,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. He said there were glimmers of activity as senators — from both parties — are now talking to one another more.

“There’s a deep sense of our responsibility here,” Murphy continued. “There’s a sense we have an increased obligation because the executive branch is not going to be able to handle this by themselves. We've got to be the adults in the federal government.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally, said the nation has faced tougher challenges.

"We won two world wars. We can do this," Graham said. “It’s not hard to do. It’s just expensive.”

There is indeed a palpable sense of urgency at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. McConnell vowed “warp speed” on the White House's $1 trillion request, and Pelosi tapped her chairmen to get to work on their priorities.

“The Congress has an enormous role to play in responding to this challenge,” McConnell said as he opened the chamber Wednesday. Even as the rest of Washington emptied out, and businesses around the country closed down, McConnell declared that the Senate would stay in town as long as it takes: “We aren’t leaving until we deliver.”

It was a dramatic shift for McConnell, who relishes his “Grim Reaper” moniker for having turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, burying bills from Pelosi’s House.

Even as late as Friday, he’d cut senators loose for the weekend. McConnell and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom McConnell helped confirm to the high court after hearings that focused on sexual misconduct allegations, flew to the senator's home state of Kentucky for a reception for another rising, if controversial, judicial star. All the while, the House was working to pass its aid package.

The Senate did overwhelmingly pass the measure on Wednesday, sending the $100 billion package of sick pay and food aid to the president’s desk. Meantime, negotiations deepened over the next, larger round of rescue money.

The dynamics between the White House, McConnell’s Senate and Pelosi’s House are delicate at best. Not only are the two chambers often at odds, but Republican senators also can find themselves out of step with Trump, whose personal ideology is fluid and frequently lands on the outskirts of what was once Republican orthodoxy.

That’s sometimes left Pelosi to negotiate with the Trump administration, as she did last week. At McConnell's behest, it was the Democratic leader who produced an initial deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

One person Pelosi didn’t speak with during the negotiations? The president.

Mnuchin and Pelosi were talking again, on the phone late Wednesday.

In the cases of 9/11 and the Great Recession, divided government in Washington moved with great speed, passing emergency appropriations and tax rebates. Lawmakers and the administration were fueled by a sense of national urgency, and the knowledge that failure could cost them politically.

President George W. Bush sent $300 checks to Americans after the 2001 attacks and created an entirely new government entity, the Department of Homeland Security.

As the country plunged into recession, Congress hesitated for a crucial few days as the stock market nosedived before approving the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008.

A few months later, after Obama’s inauguration, Congress muscled through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, carrying an initial price tag of $787 billion, on a nearly party-line vote. That’s several hundred billion dollars smaller than what the White House is seeking now — and both parties acknowledge there will almost certainly be more spending to come.

The steps Washington took left a toxic hangover for both parties, a lingering unease that someone other than ordinary Americans was benefiting. A new generation of Republicans declaring themselves the tea party swept into office vowing to control government spending, while liberal Democrats deepened their disdain for the excesses of Wall Street, an industry that had flourished after its taxpayer bailouts.

Even as Congress appears to be barreling toward more massive spending, there were those this week trying to raise some alarms.

“Right now, the plan around here is basically to just start shoveling money out of a helicopter,” scoffed Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a speech on the Senate floor. He urged a better way.

Yet most lawmakers appeared ready to press forward, well aware that the details of the package are only part of what the public is watching for. They have to show Washington can work.

“Both sides know that the public expects us to do something,” said veteran Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. “Or there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • More than 1.4 million people worldwide -- including nearly 400,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, April 8, continue below:      UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in stable condition amid coronavirus treatment, junior health minister says Update 4:13 a.m. EDT April 8: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains hospitalized in stable condition following a worsening of his novel coronavirus symptoms, junior health minister Edward Argar told Sky News. “I understand the Prime Minister is in a stable condition. He’s comfortable and in good spirits. He has, in the past, had some oxygen, but he’s not on ventilation,” Argar told the network. On Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesperson told CNN the prime minister is receiving “standard oxygen treatment” and is breathing without assistance, a day after he was transferred to intensive care. More than 1K Veterans’ Affairs health workers test positive for coronavirus Update 3:50 a.m. EDT April 8: At least 1,000 health care workers who service veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Task and Purpose, a military and veteran-focused digital media company, 1,007 Veterans’ Health Administration employees have contracted the virus and have been placed in isolation. Read more here. California governor brokers deals for 200M masks per month to fight coronavirus Update 3:15 a.m. EDT April 8: Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out plans Tuesday for his state to acquire more than 200 million protective masks per month for health care workers battling the novel coronavirus. Newsom, who discussed the plans while appearing on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said action needed to be taken at the state level. 'In the past 48 hours, we have secured through a consortium of nonprofits and manufacturers here in the state of California upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California and potentially the needs of other western states,” Newsom said, adding, “We inked a number of contracts in the last few days that give me confidence in being able to say that.” Specifically, he told Maddow he expects to receive more than 150 million N95 masks and more than 50 million surgical masks per month. 2nd US coronavirus vaccine trial administers first dose Update 1:40 a.m. EDT April 8: The first dose of a second experimental novel coronavirus vaccine was administered this week to a subject at the University of Pennsylvania. Biotechnology firm Inovio began its Phase 1 clinical trial with the first dose delivered Monday and the trial expected to enroll as many as 40 healthy adult volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, according to a news release.  Dr. Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s principal investigator, said in the release his team anticipates “rapid enrollment” in the early-stage trial, expected to continue through late summer.  “There has been tremendous interest in this vaccine among people who want to do what they can do to help protect the greater public from this pandemic as soon as possible,” Tebas said in the release.  Meanwhile, biotechnology firm Moderna launched its Phase 1 coronavirus vaccine testing in March. US coronavirus deaths hit 12,895, total cases near 400K Published 12:28 a.m. EDT April 8: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 398,000 early Wednesday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 398,809 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 12,895 deaths. U.S. cases now nearly triple the 141,942 reported in Spain and the 135,586 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 5,489 – or roughly 43 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 1,232 in New Jersey and 845 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 139,876 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 44,416 and Michigan with 18,970. Six other states have now confirmed at least 13,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 17,585, including 450 deaths • Louisiana: 16,284, including 582 deaths • Massachusetts: 15,202, including 356 deaths • Florida: 13,629, including 250 deaths • Pennsylvania: 14,956, including 296 deaths • Illinois: 13,553, including 380 deaths Meanwhile, Texas and Georgia each has confirmed at least 9,000 novel coronavirus infections, followed closely by Washington state with 8,696 cases and Connecticut with 7,781 cases; Indiana and Colorado each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases; Ohio, Maryland and Tennessee each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Arizona, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama and Nevada each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • At least 10 people have died from the coronavirus at one nursing home in Athens, Georgia, officials confirmed Tuesday. The patients were residents at PruittHealth Grandview. WSB-TV′s Justin Gray talked to a nurse who said she was fired for not going back while still symptomatic for COVID-19. She said she got the virus from a patient who died from the illness. She was one of multiple nurses who talked to Gray, but most wanted to remain anonymous to protect their jobs. Nurse Myesha Moore first tipped off Gray to the coronavirus outbreak at Grandview after she was fired. She said the patients at the nursing home were like family to her. “I’m devastated,” Moore said. “I’m a nurse, and I’m a new nurse at that. I thought I was there to take care of people and protect them and be an advocate for them, and yet I’ve been terminated for being an advocate.” Gray reached out the PruittHealth at their Norcross headquarters. The company said in a statement: “We are saddened to share that 10 patients of PruittHealth Grandview who were previously tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 have passed away in the past few weeks. PruittHealth Grandview continues to operate at an alert code red status and has been strictly following enhanced infectious disease protocol.” Moore said she feels terrible for the victims and their families. “I love them, I really do,” Moore said. “And it hurts. It really does hurt.” PruittHealth denies terminating Moore, and said she is still on the payroll and even scheduled to earn hazard pay. They also said they are restricting staff at Grandview to only essential personnel right now.
  • A Florida man is facing allegations that he intentionally coughed on a store employee and said social distancing is “getting out of hand,” according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Christopher Canfora, 49, of DeBary, was arrested just before 3 p.m. at his home and taken to Volusia County Jail. He is being charged with assault with intent to commit a felony and is being held on $5,000 bond. Deputies responded to the Harbor Freight Tools store on Enterprise Road in Orange County. The employee said Canfora allegedly approached her at the cash register just after 9 a.m. and commented on the social distancing measure the store was taking. Tape markers were on the store to ensure customers stayed six feet apart. The employee told deputies that Canfora said “this is all getting out of hand” and intentionally coughed on her and the register. He then told her he does the same thing to people wearing masks when he sees them, and planned on going to Winn-Dixie and doing the same thing there, deputies said. Deputies said they were able to identify Canfora through a customer rewards system in the store’s database, according to the arrest affidavit. When they arrived at Canfora’s home, he denied coughing on anyone and told them he did not have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, deputies said. Canfora also told deputies that he didn’t expect anyone to understand his sense of humor, and that he couldn’t remember exactly what he said at Harbor Freight, authorities said.
  • Plenty of people across the state have been dealing with issues trying sign up for Florida’s reemployment process, but now CareerSource Northeast Florida has a solution that can help. Eight career center locations in Jacksonville and the surrounding counties are now providing paper applications with pre-addressed envelopes so you won’t have to deal with the website crashing or waiting on hold. The applications will be sent directly to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “The applications are available for anybody who doesn’t have the ability to print out the paper application from the online site at the state of Florida,” says Candace Moody with CareerSource. She says it’s unclear how many people are going to need the paper applications, so they’ve printed out 10,000 to get started. “It’s important to note that the applications are available outside from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day,” Moody says. After that, they’ll bring the applications inside until the next day, she says. You can go to the following locations to pick up the paper applications: Duval County Downtown: 215 N. Market Street Jacksonville, FL 32202 Gateway: 5000 Norwood Avenue, Suite 2 Jacksonville, FL 32208 Southside: 11160 Beach Blvd., Ste. 111 Jacksonville, FL 32246 Baker County 1184 South 6th Street Macclenny, FL 32063 Clay County 1845 Town Center Blvd., Suite 150 Fleming Island, FL 32003 Nassau County 96042 Lofton Square Court Yulee, FL 32097 Putnam County 400 Highway 19 North, Ste. 53 Palatka, FL 32177 St. Johns County 525 State Road 16, Suite 109 St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • The doors of Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History were locked Tuesday. MOSH is shut down during the pandemic.  Local mom Lauren Lynch told Action News Jax it’s one of many changes she’s noticed because of coronavirus.  She added that keeping kids entertained is hard while stuck at home.  Lynch said, “That’s tough because she asks about the park everyday. My son, I want him to get out and start walking, and be outside.  In response to COVID-19, MOSH made their content available in all local homes.  MOSH Connect, the museum’s new program, has educational experiments, video demonstrations and downloadable activity sheets.  All of the content is online and free.  One of the posted activities is a catapult built with Popsicle sticks, rubber bands and a plastic fork.  The lesson is designed to demonstrate Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion.  Lynch said she’ll be exploring MOSH Connect with her kids.  She explained it’s an option to keep her kids occupied and safe inside.

The Latest News Videos