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On the roster: Congress ready to hit the skids again - I’ll Tell You What: A geyser of blarney - Biden’s veep process bogs down on assault claim - Trump campaign warned president on poor showing - Your Walpurgis party stinks
We hope that members of Congress have been enjoying their highest approval ratings in more than a decade, because they are about to end.

Congress got a big bounce with voters as part of a natural rally-round-the-flag effect at the beginning of the coronavirus national emergency. That (only relatively) good reception was maintained as lawmakers came to a bipartisan agreement to dump $2 trillion into the shuttered economy.

If there’s anything a politician likes more than the chance to leverage patriotic sentiment, it's free money, and this time, they got both.

Despite the early enthusiasm among the big spenders at both the White House and in Congress for the similarly speedy authorization of trillions and trillions more in bailouts and stimulus, conservatives, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been clamping down.

To get a sense of how negotiations are going on this round of spending, consider that the House and Senate are even at odds over when to even start working. The House scrubbed its scheduled return next week citing both health concerns and a lack of clarity on which legislative path to follow.

The Senate, meanwhile, is ready to roll. Now, size matters since it’s easier to deal with 100 members in a pandemic than it is to accommodate 435. But there is considerable stagecraft going on here.

Senate Republicans are trying to embody their party’s back-to-work approach, while Democrats are looking to keep the focus on the continued dangers of the virus. This was clearly on display last week when House Republicans and Democrats bickered over wearing masks while voting on another half-trillion goose for the previous package.

These attitudes aren’t just the result of the usual brain-dead partisanship. They reflect the political geography of the disease.

Seven of the 10 states with the highest number of coronavirus cases are predominantly Democratic. And more densely populated urban and suburban areas where concerns are greatest about the pandemic also happen to be Democratic.

There’s plenty of concern in Republican-leaning states, too. And those concerns may increase as the virus continues to work its way through smaller communities. But for now, there’s definitely a red-blue divide on the experience.

In the weeks ahead we will have plenty of chances to talk about the specific proposals from House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House’s chief negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But let’s start with the general contours.

Mnuchin, and one assumes his boss, agrees with Republicans generally that the goal of the next round of legislation should be on revitalizing an already open and opening economy. But the administration also generally agrees with Democrats on the size and scope of spending.

Team Trump wants to re-open like Republicans but spend like Democrats.

Which brings us to the developing fight over state bailout packages. There has been a blue streak of blue-state outrage over Republicans balking at aid to states and cities or setting conditions on the cash. That’s because the shutdowns many Democrats want to keep in place are very, very expensive.

In Wisconsin, like many states, the Democratic governor is facing the prospect of deep cuts and layoffs because tax revenue has dried up. With bond markets saturated and no easy answers about when things might clear up, there’s no way to compensate for the massive revenue reductions outside of a federal bailout.

Without that bailout, the states will face additional pressures to reopen sooner and more broadly than they would with the state-level equivalent of the Payroll Protection Program. Though we expect the bailouts will come, we doubt they will be of the size and speed that many in the House and White House might like.

Convincing Republican senators from low-density states with small numbers of infections and deaths to back a program to give big cities money to facilitate an extended shutdown of which they and their constituents likely disapprove will be hard work to say the least.

Fortunately for Democrats and the White House, some of those same senators are new nationalists who have embraced the idea of central planning and large-scale federal economic interventions. That means the easiest way to build a coalition may not be to squeeze the amount of state aid, but to wrap it in another multi-trillion spending/stimulus package that will have lots of red state goodies, too.

Like we said, free money wrapped in appeals to patriotism goes quicker on Capitol Hill than hand sanitizer in a goodie bag. But even so, there are still enough conservatives of McConnell’s ilk that just adding zeros might be a no-go.

Trump’s election-year promise of a roaring re-start may not be achievable, but he will still want all of the spending he can get to intensify the bounce back and make his case that he is leading the nation out of the malaise.

It’s shaping up to be a helluva donnybrook. Sounds like Congress is getting back to its old self.

“The security essentially intended by the Constitution against corruption and treachery in the formation of treaties, is to be sought for in the numbers and characters of those who are to make them.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 66

Atlantic: Allison Ward used to grab coffee during her commute to work. …[Since] the coronavirus pandemic put the city on lockdown, she’s been missing her Starbucks fix. Then she learned about dalgona coffee. The recipe—made of equal parts instant coffee, sugar, and hot water, whipped until foamy—has been around for years in countries such as India, Greece, and Libya, but became a viral trend in March after South Korean YouTubers began testing the concoction. Like other quarantine micro-trends—sourdough starters, for one—the drink grew popular online for being both easy to make and pretty to photograph. … But food innovation—the invention or popularization of ingredients, recipes, and methods of producing, cooking, or preserving food—tends to spike the most during times of crisis, food historians told me. … Though initial food trends seemed to indicate panic buying … some hard-to-find items indicate a need for stress relief rather than a need to survive.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Average approval: 45.4 percent
Average disapproval: 51.2 percent
Net Score: -5.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.6 points
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 49% approve - 49% disapprove; Monmouth University: 46% approve - 49% disapprove.

You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. It’ll be the same behind-the-scenes look at your favorite political note, only from their remote locations during this unprecedented time. Click here to sign up and watch!

This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss updates from the Biden campaign including the party's reaction to the accusations against the former vice president and the Clintons’ role in an election year. They also give their thoughts on Coronavirus crisis response at large, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, meat shortages, Justin Amash's potential third-party run for president, and more. Plus, Peter returns for trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Politico: “The job description for Joe Biden’s running mate has suddenly become more complicated: the Democratic vice presidential nominee must now defend him against sexual assault accusations without looking hypocritical. It’s a particularly vexing problem for Biden’s potential picks, many of whom played lead roles in opposing the Senate confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. … [Advisers to four of the potential nominees] said they hoped Biden would speak out soon, but conceded there’s no way he — or those in contention to be his running mate — can continue to avoid the subject… ‘The #MeToo movement was an over-correction to decades of ignoring women and not believing them. And what we’re seeing now is a result of that over-correction,’ [an adviser to one of the women under consideration] said. ‘It’s not ideal. It’s not what we want to be talking about.’”

WaPo Editorial Board calls on Biden to answer allegations - WaPo: “One place to start is the records covering Mr. Biden’s 36-year Senate career, donated to the University of Delaware in 2012 and slated for release to the public two years after Mr. Biden ‘retires from public life.’ These could contain confirmation of any complaint Ms. [Tara] Reade made, either through official congressional channels or to the three other employees she claims she informed not specifically of the alleged assault but more generally of harassment. They could also contain nothing of the sort. Insisting on an inventory doesn’t mean one believes Ms. Reade or doesn’t believe her. It signals only a desire for the public to know all that’s able to be known, which ought to be in everyone’s interest.”

Biden, Sanders cut deal on delegates - Fox News: “Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’ political teams on Thursday announced a deal that would allow Sanders to keep hundreds of convention delegates he would have otherwise had to forfeit after suspending his White House bid. The agreement between the former vice president and the populist senator from Vermont avoids what could have been a messy political fight between the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Sanders, who was Biden’s last remaining primary rival. The deal may also put to rest fears of a repeat performance of the divisive 2016 primary between Sanders and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton that led to a cold peace during the general election. Many Sanders supporters refused to vote for Clinton in the November election, which helped Donald Trump win the White House.”

Veep search committee announced - Axios: “Joe Biden is one step closer to naming a running mate, announcing four co-chairs and a committee to vet candidates for a job he has committed to filling with a woman. The vice presidential selection committee will be headed by Biden's longtime friend former Sen. Chris DoddCynthia Hogan, a longtime aide and adviser who served as Biden's vice presidential counsel in the Obama White House; and two national campaign co-chairs, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Biden's committee is forming as some supporters push for the presumptive Democratic nominee to name a woman of color; and amid calls for Biden to publicly address allegations by a former Senate staffer.”

Biden hires former Obama adviser as deputy campaign manager - WaPo: “Former vice president Joe Biden has hired Rufus Gifford, a former top adviser to Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, as his new deputy campaign manager focused on finance, external outreach and coalition building, according to campaign officials familiar with the move. The addition of Gifford, who also previously served as ambassador to Denmark and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2018, adds another veteran of recent presidential campaigns to the staff of Biden, who became the presumptive nominee in recent weeks with a lean and underfunded operation. ‘Rufus will focus on places where finance intersects with policy and political work and will also occasionally serve as a spokesperson for the campaign,’ said one person familiar with the move, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the hire was not yet public.”

AP: “President Donald Trump erupted at his top political advisers last week when they presented him with worrisome polling data that showed his support eroding in a series of battleground states as his response to the coronavirus comes under criticism. … Trump reacted with defiance, incredulous that he could be losing to someone he viewed as a weak candidate. ‘I am not f—-ing losing to Joe Biden,’ he repeated in a series of heated conference calls with his top campaign officials, according to five people with knowledge of the conversations. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions. The message to the president was sobering: Trump was trailing the former Democratic vice president in many key battleground states, he was told, and would have lost the Electoral College if the election had been held earlier this month.”

States ready online voting despite dire warnings - NPR: “Election officials nationwide are preparing for what may the highest election turnout in modern history in the middle of a pandemic. In response, several states will be turning to a relatively new and untested form of Internet-based voting to aid the voters who may have the most trouble getting to the polls. In the latest demonstration of the technology, Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically in its primary election next month, becoming the second U.S. state to do so. The decision comes despite grave warnings from the cybersecurity community that the technology doesn't offer sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity of an election. NPR is the first to report the development, which has yet to be announced publicly.”

AP: “The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Thursday that new cases of the coronavirus are a certainty as states begin to roll back restrictions. States need to proceed carefully as they take steps to reopen businesses and allow greater freedom of movement, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. … Fauci urged states that don’t have that capability to go very slowly. ‘You can’t just leap over things and get into a situation where you’re really tempting a rebound. That’s the thing I get concerned about,’ he said. His warnings came a day after President Donald Trump said the federal government would not extend its social distancing guidelines past Thursday, and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, predicted that by July the country would be ‘really rocking again,’ despite health experts assessing that as highly unlikely. Trump planned to meet on Thursday with Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., as the president aims to focus on the reopening process that has started in many places.”

Feds expand production powers for tests - Fox News: “The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced Wednesday that a medical company based in Maine is receiving $75.5 million under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ramp up the production of swabs for coronavirus testing, a move that comes after the administration announced it would use the DPA to keep meat processing facilities open as they face challenges with keeping workers safe from the coronavirus. DOD Spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said the aim of the move, which awards a contract to Puritan Medical Products to make the swabs, is to ‘increase swab production by 20 million per month starting in May.’ ‘Puritan Medical Products was awarded the contract, which will quickly establish a new manufacturing facility capable of doubling its current monthly output of 20 million to 40 million swabs,’ Andrews said.”

Trump admin launches ‘Operation Warp Speed’ for vaccine - Bloomberg: “The Trump administration is organizing a Manhattan Project-style effort to drastically cut the time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with a goal of making enough doses for most Americans by year’s end. Called ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ the program will pull together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months, according to two people familiar with the matter. As part of the arrangement, taxpayers will shoulder much of the financial risk that vaccine candidates may fail, instead of drug companies. The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”

Politico: “Americans filed 3.8 million new jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, pushing to 30.3 million the six-week claims tally as the coronavirus pandemic battered the economy. The new report, which covers the week ending April 25, likely understates the total number of Americans who lost their jobs as the death toll from the disease climbed above that of the Vietnam war. Self-employed workers who were made temporarily eligible last month for jobless benefits under the CARES Act are mostly left out of the count, as only 21 states have updated their systems to begin cutting unemployment checks to those workers. Eleven of those states implemented the program in just the past week. … DOL has disbursed more than $750 million to assist states responding to the massive influx of claims, he said. Florida reported the greatest number of new claims, with an estimated 432,465 applications processed last week. California followed with 328,042 new claims.”

The curious case of the Trump tweeter and the missing ventilators - NY Post: “New York State paid a Silicon Valley electrical engineer more than $69 million for a ventilators that never arrived, according to a report on Wednesday. Yaron Oren-Pines on March 30 pocketed $69.1 million for 1,450 ventilators — a jaw-dropping $47,656 per ventilator — at least triple the standard retail price of high-end models, Buzzfeed News reported. The Empire State terminated the contract about a month later and is now trying to claw back the cash, the report said. A ‘bulk of the money was returned to the state,’ said Heather Groll, a spokesperson for the New York Office of General Services, without specifying how much. ‘We are in discussions on a few remaining issues,’ Groll added. It was the single-largest payment the Dept. of Health made under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March 7 executive order aimed at streamlining the process for obtaining desperately needed medical supplies.”

Fox News: “Explosive new internal FBI documents unsealed Wednesday show that top bureau officials discussed their motivations for interviewing then-national security adviser Michael Flynn in the White House in January 2017 -- and openly questioned if their ‘goal’ was ‘to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.’ The handwritten notes -- written by the FBI's former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Fox News is told -- further suggested that agents planned in the alternative to get Flynn ‘to admit to breaking the Logan Act’ when he spoke to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period. The Logan Act is an obscure statute that has never been used in a criminal prosecution; enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones, it was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad.”

Texas voters file lawsuit challenging age restrictions for mail-in ballots - Texas Tribune

Former Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage says he will challenge Democrat Gov. Janet Mills in 2022 Bangor [Maine] Daily News

“As the former Mayor of Partridge, Rep. [BenWyatt knows the meaning of creativity and hard work. Ben also created the popular game Cones of Dunshire. After flipping this R+13 district, we know he can win big in November again.” – The DCCC in a tweet responding to the fictional “Parks and Recreation” character Ben Wyatt being a congressman. The sitcom is airing a remote reunion show tonight.

“The covid pandemic has clearly demonstrated that the ‘huge city’ model perpetrated by NY, Chicago, Baltimore, Philly, Jersey, are untenable entities artificially promulgated by welfare, subsidized (free) housing, food stamps, free medical care, subsidized (free) transportation. These cities are jungles of the mentally ill or drug ridden homeless and generationally impoverished people with little hope and almost no way out. Time to end the artificial welfare support and assist these lost souls in moving out to better lifestyle and employment opportunities in small towns across America. Huge cities are pandemic nightmares waiting to happen and can no longer be tolerated in modern America. Replace welfare with ‘Relocation’ to the many military bases and government facilities that can be surpluses and repurposed as training and education centers that are safe and secure, with administrative, training, housing, food service, educational and entertainment buildings already operational.  The only way to meaningfully change the lives of the homeless and indigent is to remove them from their broken environments and allow them a better way forward.” – Mike Connolly, Fort White, Fla.

[Ed. note: Mr. Connolly, I think after the quarantine is done you should consider a visit to one of America’s great cities. There you will not find “jungles of the mentally ill” but flourishing centers of commerce, culture and education. They will make you proud to be an American. While some are certainly faring better than others and each city has its own problems with vagrancy, poverty and crime, the scenes you are describing are more like “The Warriors” or “Death Wish” than reality. Cities have their problems, but so too does rural America. Wherever you live, the human condition will be there, too. You will be amazed at what’s really going on in these places you so despise. As for your proposed solution to the perceived problem, let me try this one on for size: The federal government will enter sovereign states to collect, detain, relocate and house those individuals deemed undesirable in re-education camps from whence they will be released at the point determined by their captors. That’s a hard pass for me.]

“In my early sixties’ typing class, a two-spaced sentence finish was the only approved ending. Those of us who took typing rather than keyboarding have had to unlearn a habit deeply entrenched. As we have made the technology upgrade, our older brain cells remember having the whole classroom type in unison, with TWO spaces after the period!” – Sherilyn Byers, Oklahoma City

[Ed. note: Quite so, Ms. Byers! It’s funny for me, once a two-spacer myself, how utterly bizarre the format looks to me now.]

“Trump loves chaos when he controls it, but he is losing control. My friends and I are continued supporters but it is becoming difficult to watch him address matters and respond to questions. There is no doubt he has been unduly accused, investigated and victimized by the press. However, he needs to understand this isn’t Trump Nation; this is America. He doesn’t own it. He is a sub-contractor brought in to get a job done. I pray for him every night.” – Andrea Jamison, Warwick, Pa.

[Ed. note: It would do us all well to remember what polls can never show, which includes voters like you who support a candidate, but only within certain limits. While the support of many voters is ironclad, elections are still won and lost by the decisions and actions of the candidates. Thank you for that timely reminder.]

“As a graduate of both MSU and U-M, I bumped on your reference to a land-grant university in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Michigan, is the nation’s pioneer, and Michigan’s only, land-grant university. Love the Halftime Report. Go Green!” – Joan McCormick, White Bear Lake, Minn.

[Ed. note: I cannot believe I so lazily made such an assumption, especially given that my sister is a proud graduate of your green-hued alma mater! Thank you for the Sparty corrective! ]

“I believe the headline ‘even as pain deepens, huge resistance to reopening’ can't quite tell the whole story. Less than 40% of the population of the US lives in the hard hit metropolitan areas. That other 60%? Just grin and bear it, I guess, share the pain, share the sacrifice. Be scared, be anxious, but don't make decisions for yourself. As long as we are frightened, we can be manipulated (remember the Patriot Act).  In this hyper-politicized era with very sparse actual information conveyed by our leaders and the media, perhaps it is time that we, as individuals, step back and assess the costs.” – Patsy Fields, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

[Ed. note: Ms. Fields, may I suggest that you consider giving your fellow Americans a bit more credit. Though it seems like an eternity, we’ve only been in this strange space for a relative blink of an eye. In less than two months, we, a hugely populous, continental nation, have absorbed a great deal of change. I am confident that our understanding of the situation and ourselves will be equally different two months hence. And as for the haves and the have-nots of the crisis, this is not a static issue. As the epicenter moved from Seattle to New York and then spread out through the interior of the country, we will continue to see the geography of coronavirus change. There may be less “us vs. them” and more “now vs. later.”]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

The Guardian: “The university town of Lund in Sweden is to dump a [ton] of chicken manure in its central park in a bid to deter up to 30,000 residents from gathering there for traditional celebrations to mark Walpurgis Night on Thursday. … Walpurgis Night, celebrated on 30 April, is widely marked across central and northern Europe with parties and bonfires. The festivities are classed as ‘spontaneous’ so cannot be banned by authorities, but to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus many towns and cities in Sweden have asked citizens to give the tradition a miss this year. Philip Sandberg, the leader of council, told the paper it would ‘not be a pleasant experience … to sit in a park that stinks of chicken manure. But it will be good for the lawns, as chicken manure contains a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen, so we’ll get a really nice park for the summer.’”

“There is excellence, and there is greatness – cosmic, transcendent, Einsteinian. We know it when we see it, we think. But how to measure it?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on July 1, 2002.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.