GOP reach tentative coronavirus aid package

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Republican leaders may have finally struck a deal on the next coronavirus aid package as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. approaches 4 million.

Here’s what we’re watching this Thursday morning.

Senate GOP, White House reach tentative $1 trillion pact to break coronavirus aid logjam

Senate Republicans announced Wednesday evening that they have “reached a fundamental agreement” with White House negotiators on how to move forward with a coronavirus relief bill.

The tentative framework comes amid tension in the party over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal includes $16 billion for testing, money so schools can “safely reopen” and another round of direct payments to Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated that he wants to keep the price tag to $1 trillion. But some Republicans have denounced the cost amid a soaring national debt.

The new proposal would just be the starting point for negotiations with Democrats who have been pressuring the GOP to move quickly on new aid as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise in the United States.

Here are some other developments:

Chicago activists worry as federal troops head their way

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would send federal law enforcement officers to Chicago to address the city’s recent increase in violence, his latest deployment of federal agents to Democratic-run cities that the president has claimed are out of control.

“I am announcing that the Department of Justice will immediately surge federal law enforcement to the city of Chicago. The FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and Homeland Security will together be sending hundreds of skilled law enforcement officers to Chicago to help drive down violent crime,” Trump said at a White House event addressing crime in cities.

Trump said he would also be sending law enforcement to other cities “soon,” including Kansas City, Missouri and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But community activists and criminologists in Chicago say they are concerned that the tensions, reinvigorated protests and questionable arrests involving federal agents in Portland, Oregon, in recent days could flare in Chicago, America’s third-largest city.

“Sending in federal agents without any real specificity and clarity for their presence is a very slippery slope,” said David Stovall, a professor of African American studies and criminology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Chinese consulate in Houston was hot spot for spying, say U.S. officials

The Trump administration’s decision to close China’s consulate in Houston on Wednesday came after years of FBI intelligence-gathering showed it was a hot spot of Chinese spying in America, U.S. officials told NBC News.

Multiple U.S. officials said that the Houston consulate has long been used by the Chinese government to steal valuable medical research and that it was involved in attempts to infiltrate the oil and natural gas industries. President Trump had been well briefed about the concerns, they said.

Current and former U.S. law enforcement officials say the consulate is well-fortified, was hardened to prevent U.S. surveillance, and was a high-tech communications hub to coordinate and execute various spying operations.

On Wednesday the U.S. government ordered China to “cease all operations and events” at the consulate.

Who’s behind Trump’s big polling deficit? Two key groups defecting to Biden.

In the wake of a pandemic and the protests following George Floyd’s death, voters’ support for President Donald Trump has tanked.

His average deficit against Joe Biden in national polls has ballooned from 6 percentage points in March to 9 points in July. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, published just last week, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump 51 percent to 40 percent.

A closer look at the recent surveys shows two key groups are fueling Biden’s polling surge: seniors and white voters with college degrees, writes NBC News’ contributor David Wasserman.

Click here to see the charts that show the trends.

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One fun thing

At 94 years old, Mae Krier, a former “Rosie the Riveter,” is serving her country once again — by sewing face masks.

For about eight hours a day, she’s at her sewing machine making masks in the iconic polka-dot print.

“It’s very rewarding. That little piece of red and white polka-dot stands for something,” she said.

While she started out making them for family and friends, she now has over 1,000 pending orders from strangers across the country saluting women’s service.

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Thanks, Petra