Reporters raise their hands to ask President Donald Trump questions during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Jolt: For GOP, ideology falls by the wayside as pandemic closes in

If you subscribe to the Twitter feed of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., you know that he typically sends out an inspirational Bible verse each morning. Here’s what he posted on Tuesday:

We are on the eve of grave societal & economic challenges that will render partisan bickering trivial & ideological purity irrelevant

These are not ordinary times

We either take bold & unprecedented action now to address the economic disruption or face unimaginable consequences

In the face of a pandemic and an economy on the edge of an abyss, Republicans are quickly changing how they speak of a spreading coronavirus, and potential solutions for dealing with a consumer-oriented market system suddenly shorn of consumers.

A once-skeptical President Donald Trump continued to make that turn on Tuesday. From the Associated Press:

In a massive federal effort, President Donald Trump asked Congress to speed emergency checks to Americans, enlisted the military for MASH-like hospitals and implored ordinary people — particularly socially active millennials — to do their part by staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

His proposed economic package alone could approach $1 trillion, a rescue initiative not seen since the Great Recession. Trump wants checks sent to the public within two weeks and is urging Congress to pass the eye-popping stimulus package in a matter of days.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has climbed aboard:

[T]he Senate will vote on a House-passed package of sick pay, emergency food and free testing, putting it back on track for Trump's signature — despite Republican objections. “Gag, and vote for it anyway,” he advised colleagues.

Overnight, the White House sent lawmakers a $46 billion emergency funding request to boost medical care for military service members and veterans, fund production of vaccines and medicines, build 13 quarantine centers at the southern border for migrants, make federal buildings safer, and reimburse Amtrak for $500 million in anticipated revenue losses, among other purposes.

The Trump request also reverses cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health that Trump proposed in his February budget for next year and would create a $3 billion fund for unanticipated needs.

The only GOP member of Congress to vote in favor of Trump’s removal from office weeks earlier again has influence. From the Washington Post:

Americans could get a check for $1,000 or more in the coming weeks, as political leaders coalesce around a dramatic plan to try to prevent a worse recession and protect people from going bankrupt.

The idea took off Monday when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called for every American adult to receive a $1,000 check “immediately” to help tide people over until other government aid can arrive. By Tuesday, there was bipartisan support for the idea, including from President Trump. The White House even suggested the amount could be over $1,000, an acknowledgment of how big the economic crisis is becoming.

Points of view are changing so fast that many of Trump’s loyal followers are being left behind. A concerted effort is being made to bring them along. From the Daily Beast:

As the coronavirus has worsened, members of the task force President Donald Trump has assigned to combat the pandemic have reached out to prominent conservative social-media “influencers” and right-wing TV and radio stars to offer them private briefings and information sessions with Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials.

Among the surrogates courted: Former Georgia congressman Jack Kingston of Savannah.

***

This morning, Gov. Brian Kemp balked at making a move other governors have made -- ordering a shutdown of bars and restaurants across the state to stop the spread of the virus. From one of your Insiders:

“We can’t just shut things down,” Kemp told radio station Q99.7. “If you overreach, the people would rebel and not heed the warnings you give to them. And a lot of people are listening.” 

***

Fifteen first-term Democrats in the state House are asking Gov. Brian Kemp to address the plight of Georgia’s small businesses and their workers by deferring sales tax collection and expand the “scope and duration” of unemployment benefits. The letter:

***

As expected, former Vice President Joe Biden trounced U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the three states that persevered with Democratic presidential primary voting on Tuesday. From the Wall Street Journal:

In Florida, a critical battleground state in the general election, Mr. Biden won nearly three times as many votes as the Vermont senator and carried all 67 counties. With 85.7% of Illinois precincts reporting, Mr. Biden had 59.1% of the vote versus 36.2% for Mr. Sanders. While in Arizona, with 3.3% of the vote in, the former vice president had 42.9% against his rival’s 29.9%.

The latest large victories for Mr. Biden are likely to place more pressure on Mr. Sanders to exit from the race so the party can focus on President Trump. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday showed Mr. Biden was favored nationally, 61% to 32%, among those who have already voted in the Democratic primary or plan to do so.

***

In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found that Jon Ossoff leads the Democratic race to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the Republican incumbent. Ossoff had the support of 31% of likely Democratic voters. wo most formidable opponents – Sarah Riggs Amico and Teresa Tomlinson – are essentially deadlocked at 15%.

But the real leader: 39% said they were undecided ahead of a May 19 vote that’s expected to draw higher turnout now that the presidential primary was postponed to that date because of the pandemic.

***

The coronavirus is fast reshaping how candidates who can’t hit the campaign trail can still reach out to voters. And some of Georgia’s top contenders spent the first few days of the week experimenting with new strategies.

Jon Ossoff, the leading Democratic candidate in the race against U.S. Sen. David Perdue, rolled out a public service announcement where he uttered these words: “I want you to stop listening to me, and listen to my wife.” 

His spouse, Dr. Alisha Kramer, then proceeded to deliver a quick-and-dirty lesson on the dangers of coronavirus and the need to practice social distancing.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign sent a detailed note about her recent coronavirus-related votes, the bills she’s sponsored and even the meetings and phone calls she’s had with mayors and county commissioners.

Another Perdue challenger, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, used the crisis to highlight her experience in a fundraising letter. Here’s what she wrote, in part: 

There is a national state of emergency as we grapple with a global pandemic. Elections are happening right now to elect the leaders we will entrust to deal with this crisis. Georgia needs someone who is ready for the job on Day One.

I know the responsibilities and demands mayors and public safety directors are facing right now across America because I was one for eight years. When I held those positions, we conducted extensive simulations and preparations on how to confront crises just like this one. 

The crisis is also affecting candidates in personal ways. 

Clayton Fuller, a Republican contender running in the 14th District race for Congress, has been called up by the Air National Guard to help assist with the government’s response. 

And Nabilah Islam, a Democratic congressional candidate for the Seventh District, said her mother lost her job Tuesday because of the economic slowdown.

“She only made $14 an hour,” said Islam. “She finished the conversation asking me how she’s going to survive. I’m completely heartbroken.” 

***

If you’re looking for some non-coronavirus news to ingest, three Georgia members of the U.S. House are teaming up to tackle a much different issue -- standards for the labeling of olive oil.

U.S. Reps. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, David Scott, D-Atlanta, and Rick Allen, R-Evans, are among the six members who recently sent a bipartisan letter to the head of the Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to establish standards to identify various grades of olive oil.

Apparently, consumers are not always getting what they pay for when they pick up a bottle of pressed olives at the grocery store.

“Currently, consumers are paying more for what they think is extra virgin olive oil, but often the products they purchase are not extra virgin,” the letter said. “Two studies showed that approximately 50 percent of all bottles labeled extra virgin on grocery store shelves were not extra virgin olive oil.”

Growers and producers first began asking the FDA to more closely regulate their industry last year. In the last decade or so, olive oil has taken off as a competitive agricultural niche in Georgia.

***

In endorsement news: End Citizens United, a political action committee that seeks to loosen the grip of outside money in campaigns, has a preferred candidate in each of Georgia’s U.S. Senate races. The group endorsed Jon Ossoff’s bid to unseat U.S. Sen. David Perdue, and it also has endorsed the Rev. Raphael Warnock in November’s special election for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loffler.

End Citizens United recently merged with another political organization, Let America Vote, to create one of the Democratic Party’s best-funded PACs.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X