Mar 19, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon. Today's PM — edited by Zachary Basu — is 479 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Italy's death toll surged to 3,405, overtaking China as the site of the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the world.

  • ✈️ The State Department has issued a Level 4 advisory urging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel.
1 big thing: Coronavirus hits Congress

A close-up of President Trump's notes shows he crossed out "Corona" and replaced it with "Chinese" Virus. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

More than a dozen lawmakers have entered voluntary self-quarantine, and more are expected to — seriously testing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proclamation last week that Congress will be "the last to leave."

  • Two House members, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), revealed that they tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Among those in self-quarantine is Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 2 Republican in the House.

The Senate is racing to negotiate a "Phase 3" coronavirus relief package that could top $1 trillion.

  • The bill could include loans to small businesses, direct payments to Americans and bailouts for struggling industries.
  • Mitch McConnell's plan to move at "warp speed" could be upended if the coronavirus spreads through the halls of Congress, where the average lawmaker is close to 60 years old.

Driving the news: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told members that the House will not return to session until the Senate passes its bill and that voting procedures will be adjusted to follow CDC guidance on large gatherings.

  • More than 50 members have signed onto a resolution by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) demanding that the House allow remote voting.
  • The argument: Congress is undermining public health officials on social distancing.

On the Senate side, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are floating a similar remote voting resolution.

  • “Yes, it is new," Durbin said on the Senate floor. "Yes, it is different. Yes, it reflects the 21st century and reflects a challenge the likes of which we have never seen."

Reality check: Politico Playbook notes that it's highly unlikely the House will change the rules to allow mobile voting. Reasons include technological hurdles, complex voter procedures and possible legal challenges.

  • But House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said on a caucus call today that he’s doing a study on remote voting and whether it’s feasible, a Democratic aide tells Axios' Alayna Treene.

P.S. Prince Albert II of Monaco today became the first head of state to test positive for the virus.

Bonus: Cartoon du jour

Drawing: The New Yorker. Used with permission.

2. Catch up quick

The statue of Christ the Redeemer lit up in the colors of the countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Sergio Moraes/Reuters

  1. 96% of U.S. small business owners are already being hurt by the coronavirus, according to a Goldman Sachs survey of participants in the firm's 10,000 Small Businesses program. By the numbers.
  2. Tulsi Gabbard ended her 2020 campaign and endorsed Joe Biden. Go deeper.
  3. Axios' chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon put together a coronavirus guide for the individual investor. Go deeper.
  4. President Trump said his administration was ready for the pandemic, but the "only thing" it wasn't prepared for was the media's response. Video.

Axios' coronavirus dashboard

3. 1 Ocho thing

WBAL sports anchor Pete Gilbert prepares to record a stand-up in a colleague's basement. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

As America mourns a March with no Madness, "ESPN8: The Ocho" returns next Sunday on ESPN2 for the fourth time ever, bringing fans the "most bizarre, innovative and entertaining" sports you rarely see.

Highlights (ET):

  • 2 a.m.: World Axe Throwing League: 2019 World Championship
  • 9:30 a.m.: 51st National Stone Skipping Competition
  • 4 p.m.: Professional Arm Wrestling Championships
  • 6:30 p.m.: America’s Dodgeball Continental Cup: USA vs. Canada

Full schedule