The US has recorded more than 1,000 deaths a day from Covid-19 for five days running, as cases surge in southern and western states, the national caseload nears 4.2m and the death toll approaches 150,000.
In Washington, Senate Republicans and the White House continue talks over what to put in the next stimulus package, as Democrats fret over the imminent expiration of enhanced unemployment payments and evictions of those unable to make rent.
House Democrats passed a $3tn package, the Heroes Act, in May. On Sunday, key Republican negotiators said their proposals would be unveiled on Monday, with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell expected to outline a package priced at $1tn. They did not count out a need to pass short-term funding measures first.
On ABC’s This Week, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said: “The original [unemployment] benefits will not [be extended]. We are going to be prepared, on Monday, to provide unemployment insurance extension that would be 70% of wages.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there would be new $1,200 direct payments to many Americans, as well as an extension of eviction moratoriums.
On Fox News Sunday, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits were also a Republican priority.
The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told CBS’s Face the Nation she had stayed in Washington over the weekend, hoping Republicans “had something to give us. They promised it this week. It didn’t come.” Asked if the House would stay in session until a deal was reached, she said: “We can’t go home without it.”
Mnuchin said: “We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues. We’ve moved quickly before, and I see no reason why we can’t move quickly again.”
Donald Trump’s first contribution to the debate was to call Pelosi “crazy” while crowing about his decision to implement travel restrictions on China early in the pandemic. The president was at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where on Saturday he played with the former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.
“A good golfer – hits it LONG!” the president tweeted.
The general election is 100 days away. On Sunday an Associated Press-NORC poll showed just 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, while just 38% said the economy was in good shape.
NBC News released a poll with Marist that showed Trump down five points to Biden in Arizona, a red state turning increasingly blue. Mark Kelly, the Democratic candidate for US Senate, was 12 points up. Such polling is giving Democrats hope of taking control of Congress in November as well as winning back the White House.
Undeterred, Trump tweeted that his campaign “has more ENTHUSIASM, according to many, than any campaign in the history of our great Country”. In general, Republicans are more enthusiastic about their candidate than Democrats. Trump added: “The Silent Majority will speak on NOVEMBER THIRD!!! Fake Suppression Polls & Fake News will not save the Radical Left.”
Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, told the Associated Press: “People are sick and tired of a government that is divided and broken and unable to get things done. What people feel like they’re getting from Trump right now is a hodgepodge mess of self-interested political talk.”
With the nonpartisan Cook Report discussing the chances of a “Democratic tsunami”, Trump’s path to re-election increasingly runs through Florida, hit hard by Covid-19.
On Saturday Florida surpassed New York, an early hotspot, in cases confirmed. California has recorded the most. The realclearpolitics.com polling average puts Biden up by seven points in the sunshine state.
Back in Washington, Mnuchin blamed Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, for the decision not to include a payroll tax cut in stimulus proposals. As such a cut would mostly benefit richer Americans and would undermine funding for Social Security and Medicare in the middle of a public health crisis, it has widely been viewed as a political nonstarter, despite Trump’s support.
The House Heroes Act would extend enhanced unemployment payments of $600 a week, which are due to end on 31 July. Schedules in many states mean they started to disappear this weekend. More than 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, a rise after months of decline.
Describing an extended evictions moratorium, Kudlow appeared to answer Pelosi and others who have urged Republicans to help stave off a looming crisis.
The White House has also proposed to cut new funding for coronavirus testing and tracing, federal health authorities and efforts to tackle Covid-19 abroad. Asked why, the health secretary, Alex Azar, told CBS: “The president’s going to make sure that he works with Congress, that there’s adequate funding for testing.”
Trump has in some ways retreated, for example advocating the wearing of masks and social distancing measures. On Sunday, the assistant health secretary, Admiral Brett Giroir, signaled a partial retreat on a key demand from the president and the education secretary, Betsy DeVos that public schools reopen in full in the fall.
Giroir told CNN there was “no one-size-fits-all” on reopenings, and that some may have to delay if the coronavirus is spreading in their communities.
On ABC, Meadows was asked if the administration could have done more sooner.
“We took unprecedented steps,” he claimed, adding: “Hopefully it is American ingenuity that will allow for therapies and vaccines to ultimately conquer this.”
In the UK, a professor leading the British push for a vaccine said the global effort to produce anti-Covid medicines is being hampered by the US, because researchers there are testing drugs in “an arbitrary, willy-nilly way”.