Aug 13, 2017

The Manchin Hail Mary

Ron Sachs / AP

Some administration officials tensed up when Bloomberg reported that "White House and Republican officials are exploring the idea of putting West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in charge of the Energy Department."

Key paragraph in the intriguing Bloomberg story:

"If Manchin were offered and accepted the position, that would allow West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice — a newly minted Republican — to appoint a GOP successor and bring the party a vote closer in the Senate to being able to repeal Obamacare. The idea is in the early stages of consideration, and it's unclear whether it has support within the administration, according to the people, who described the conversations under condition of anonymity."

So, how seriously should we take this chatter?

  • I asked a senior White House official about the Bloomberg report. The reply: "Speculation. Not helpful to get out." (We shouldn't be surprised the White House didn't want this reported. Deals like this only tend to work when they're kept away from the media.)
  • I also phoned Jonathan Kott, a spokesman for Sen. Manchin. Kott told me Manchin hadn't talked to anyone in the administration about the Energy Secretary job since December or January, when he was briefly in contention until Trump passed Manchin over for Rick Perry.
  • Kott wouldn't say whether Manchin remains — or has ever been — especially interested in the job. He said Manchin took the Trump Tower meeting in December because we wanted to "start building a relationship" with then-president elect Trump, "to discuss energy policy and out of respect for the office."

Go deeper

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 10 mins ago - Health

Q&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., Axios is answering readers' questions about the pandemic — how it spreads, who's at risk, and what you can do to stay safe.

What's new: This week, we answer five questions on smokers' vulnerability, food safety, visiting older parents, hair cut needs, and rural vs. urban impact.

The other coronavirus test we need

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers are racing to develop tests that detect whether someone may have developed immunity to the coronavirus, which could help society return to normal faster.

Why it matters: These tests could help people know if they are able to go back to work, as well as aid researchers in tracking the scale and death rate of the disease — key data for current and future pandemic policies.

Go deeperArrow39 mins ago - Health