COVID-19 UPDATE | WEDNESDAY, NOV. 25
November 25, 2020
– Additional names continue to emerge as top contenders for Cabinet positions, though no additional positions have been named.
· Both Ursula Burns, former Xerox CEO, and Indra Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO, are seen to be contenders for Secretary of Commerce.
· Vivek Murthy, who served as Surgeon General under President Obama, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, current Governor of New Mexico, are viewed as top contenders for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
· The following are reported to be in the conversation for Attorney General:
- Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates
- Former Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
- Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
- Former White House Adviser Lisa Monaco
- Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL)
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
– Julie Su, California’s current Labor Secretary, is now understood to be a frontrunner for Labor Secretary.
· Union leaders, however, have backed three other candidates – Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
– After the General Services Administration (GSA) formally authorized the transition process to begin, multiple agencies have taken the first steps to begin coordination with the Biden team.
· Published reports indicate that there was an initial meeting between Biden EPA transition team lead Patrice Simms and his agency counterpart Wes Carpenter yesterday.
· At the Department of Transportation (DOT), Keith Washington will lead the transition effort for the department and liaise with Biden’s transition team, which is headed by Phil Washington.
· At the Department of Justice (DOJ), Lee Lofthus will lead the transition effort on behalf of the agency and Biden’s team is headed by Christopher Schroeder.
· The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) team is being led by Michael Carowitz, who has worked at the FCC since 2005, while the Biden team is led by John Williams, a Senior Counsel on the House Judiciary Committee and former FCC Counsel.
· The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) team will be led by Executive Director David Robbins and his Deputy Monique Fortenberry and the Biden team is led by Heather Hippsley.
· The Biden team was also scheduled to meet with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials yesterday.
· Additional outreach has been confirmed by the Biden team with the Department of Commerce and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, though neither agency has yet to confirm who is leading transition efforts.
– A group of ten House lawmakers sent a letter to the transition team expressing support for Katherine Tai to be U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in the Biden Administration. As a reminder, Tai currently serves as a Chief Trade Counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee. The letter is not publicly available but was led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Judy Chu (D-CA). Other signatories include Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Grace Meng (D-NY), Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH).
· Other names rumored as contenders for the USTR position include Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
– Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) sent the Biden transition team its priorities for the next Administration, including additional COVID-19 relief and a federal mask mandate for airports, among others.
– Initial doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, up to 6.4M, could be sent to frontline healthcare workers as soon as mid-December pending regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
– The Department of Labor released last week’s jobless claims numbers that showed a rise for the second straight week. Claims last week rose to 778,000 from 748,000 the week before. Though lower than claims numbers from this summer, the rising number is indicative of how the increased spread of COVID-19 may continue to affect the economy.
– As we reported yesterday, House and Senate appropriators reached agreement on the subcommittee spending levels, known as 302(b)s, for the omnibus spending legislation. The levels are not expected to be publicized before the omnibus agreement is finalized. This is, however, a significant step toward overall agreement on government funding before the December 11 deadline.
– Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey requesting information on content moderation and other policy improvements the tech companies are making ahead of the January 5 runoff elections in Georgia. The letters, which were also signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), argued that the platforms build on their efforts from the Presidential election as additional misinformation is expected.
– House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (D-WA) are requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study COVID-19 transmission on aircraft. The request is likely in the context of ongoing conflicting reports regarding whether it is safe to fly.
– Reps. Glenn (GT) Thompson (R-PA), Collin Peterson (D-MN) and James Comer (R-KY) led a letter to House leadership and House Appropriations Committee leadership to include language in the end-of-year government funding package that would delay implementation of the FCC’s April order for Ligado’s 5G plans. As a reminder, the major complaint surrounding the Ligado decision is concerns of potential GPS disruptions.
– The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the agency has finalized rules that will not require power, petroleum, chemical and coal companies to provide financial assurances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for facilities after they close. The EPA argued that existing state and federal regulations adequately cover the risks of potential hazardous substance releases.
– The Department of Commerce announced yesterday that it set an overall preliminary countervailing duty rate of 122.5% on plastic bag twist-ties from China due to currency undervaluation. Imports of the twist-ties totaled $4.15M last year, a minimal amount, but the decision to impose such duties in a trade case could open the door to future cases.
· The Department will issue a final determination on the case February 17, but that deadline could be extended due to the transition.
– The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska. Though not yet published, the Corps has completed its record of decision denying the permit and will publish it soon.
– USTR will hold two hearings in late December on Section 301 investigations targeting Vietnam. The hearing on alleged use of illegally harvested lumber will be on December 28 and the hearing on currency practices will be on December 29.
– Reuters reported that the White House is considering lifting entry bans for most non-citizens who were recently in Brazil, and 27 European nations. The Trump Administration had imposed the bans in an effort to contain COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic. Entry bans placed on non-citizens who recently were in China and Iran are not presently being considered to be lifted.
· The report comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new travel and testing recommendations for international air travelers, recommending that they get tested one to three days prior to their flight, and three to five days after, while self-isolating for one week.
Federal Register Notices
– The FCC published a final rule establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America to distribute up to $9B in two phases through multi-round reverse auctions. The final rule can be found here.
– The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a notice and request for comment on changes made to a motor carrier records change form used to “process name changes, address changes, and reinstatements of operating authority for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and brokers.” The notice can be found here.
– The Employee Benefits Security Administration issued a Notice of Charter Renewal for the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans. The notice can be found here.
– The Department of State will host a virtual meeting on December 3 in preparation for the 70th International Maritime Organization Technical Cooperation Committee meeting. The meeting can be attended by the public and a notice on the meeting can be found here.
– The Bureau of Industry and Security’s Regulations and Procedures Technical Advisory Committee will meet on December 8. A notice on the meeting, including the meeting agenda, can be found here. – The Bureau of Industry and Security’s Emerging Technology Technical Advisory Committee (ETTAC) will meet on December 10. A notice on the meeting, including the meeting agenda, can be found here.