COVID-19 Update | Monday, Aug. 3
August 3, 2020
The Senate is in session. The House is not. House lawmakers have been told to be available to vote on a COVID-19 relief package, subject to the call of the Speaker.
COVID-19 Package Negotiations
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today to continue COVID-19 relief negotiations.
- Pelosi said she would not negotiate on reducing the $600 weekly unemployment benefits until unemployment levels were reduced.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in coordination with the White House, plans to schedule votes this week to temporarily extend the recently expired federal unemployment payments and other policy issues. The Democrats have rejected this approach and as noted above, continue to talk to the White House.
- The Senate continued to consider the nomination of Mark Menezes to be Deputy Secretary of Energy.
- Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) sent two letters to Federal financial agencies and regulators urging for an extension and expansion of existing CARES Act relief provisions to provide economic stability.
- The first letter, which was sent to the Federal Reserve and Department of Treasury, called for an expansion of the Main Street Lending Program by setting up an asset-based lending program and commercial real estate program.
- The second letter, which was sent to financial regulators, recommended that regulators use existing authority to extend relief provided by the CARES Act.
- Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) objected to the appointment of retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata, whose nomination for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy was withdrawn due to bipartisan concerns. Senator Reed asserted that his appointment as the Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy was a “flagrant end run around the confirmation process.” Reed noted that the nomination was about to be rejected by the Senate.
- Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced the Healthy and Safe Travel Promotion Act of 2020, which would create a new $5B grant program to promote healthy and safe travel practices in areas recovering from COVID-19. Additionally, the bill would allow the usage of CARES Act funds for state and local governments to be used for travel promotion.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Elliot Engel (D-NY) issued subpoenas for four top State Department officials requesting that they testify on President Donald Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Engel subpoenaed Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String and State Department Senior Advisor Toni Porter.
- President Trump followed through on his threat to ban TikTok in the U.S. saying that the ban will take force on September 15 if TikTok has not been purchased by Microsoft, or another company, by then.
- President Trump called for the firing of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Chairman James Thompson and Board Member Richard Howorth due to Trump believing that Thompson was overpaid and that he disagreed with TVA’s decision to move IT jobs overseas. Trump said he would fire more members of the board if TVA did not reverse course.
- President Trump is expected to sign H.R. 1957, the Great American Outdoors Act on Tuesday morning. In our morning update, we reported that he was going to sign it today but that was likely delayed due to inclement weather in the D.C. area. The signing can be watched here.
- President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With The Interests of American Workers.” The Executive Order focused on ensuring Federal contractors are hiring American workers. The text of the order can be found here.
- Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said that the FCC will seek public comment on Section 230 liability protection revisions. In May, President Trump signed an Executive Order which would narrow the protections for technology companies. Pai said that the FCC will keep the comment period open for 45 days.
- Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of the United States Chairwoman Kimberly Reed issued remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Friday regarding how EXIM is leveraging its new authorization to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. She will also spoke about long-term challenges, including rising tensions between China and the United States, and the growing role of foreign export credit agencies in global development. Reed’s speech can be found here.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an airworthiness directive outlining steps Boeing needs to take for its 737 MAX to get approval to fly again. The directive would require software and design changes and updated flight crew procedures. The directive itself and more information on it can be found here.
- Presidential Candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden will conduct final interviews for his running mate this week and is expected to announce his decision next week. While information about the process is scarce, sources say that finalists include Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Val Demings (D-FL) and former National Security Advisory and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
- Two restaurant groups are asking Congress to take action that would bring relief to the hard-hit industry.
- The National Restaurant Association sent a letter to Congressional leadership imploring them to pass legislation to make it easier for restaurants to get second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and to make expenses paid with the loan tax deductible.
- The Independent Restaurant Coalition began airing a TV ad, narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, urging Congress to pass the Restaurants Act. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the Senate (S.4012) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House (H.R.7197), would authorize funds for a $120B grant program designed to help the industry.
- Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is testing an antibody-based drug for COVID-19 in nursing homes and plans to enroll up to 2,400 subjects. The study is aimed at seeing whether the drug reduces the rate of infection and disease in the weeks after dosing. According to the Wall Street Journal, existing studies are testing whether the drug is safe for hospitalized COVID-19 patients and whether it can clear viral loads and keep patients with milder cases of COVID-19 from having to go to the hospital.
- Eli Lilly has announced that if successful, the drug could get government approval by the end of the year.