COVID-19 Update | Monday, Aug. 31
August 31, 2020
Both the House and the Senate are in recess. As a reminder, the next Senate vote is not expected until September 8 and the next House vote is not expected until September 14.
COVID-19 Relief Negotiations
- Negotiations on COVID-19 relief continue to be stalled.
- White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows gave additional insight into the differing negotiation tactics between the Administration and Congressional Democrats this weekend. In an interview, Meadows indicated that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) now supports a topline funding number of $2.2T for the next relief package.
- According to Meadows, when he asked what that number represented in terms of programmatic funding levels, Pelosi responded that if they could come to an agreement on the topline, Congress would “fill in the blanks.”
- This supports what we have reported previously that the Administration is looking to agree to programmatic levels that add up to a certain topline, while Congressional Democrats want to agree on the topline and then fill in the programmatic amounts.
- The Administration continues to hold at $1.3T.
- The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released eight reports from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that were delivered to states, but not made public. According to the release, the reports contradict public comments made by the Administration.
- As a reminder, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will host a hearing on September 1 at 1:00pm ET featuring Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
- In a letter to Democratic Members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that a Continuing Resolution is the most likely path to keep the government funded beyond September 30, which is the end of Fiscal Year 2020.
- The Treasury Department released guidance on Friday regarding President Trump’s Executive Order on temporarily delaying the collection of payroll taxes. The guidance indicates that employers can voluntarily opt to stop withholding payroll tax amounts from employee wages on September 1 through December 31, but that the amount would have to be repaid by April 30, 2021.
- Over the weekend, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees it would no longer brief lawmakers on election security issues in person. Instead, the ODNI plans to provide written updates to lawmakers, marking a significant shift in how the information is provided. The letters informing Congress about the new plan can be read here.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Administrator Stephen Hahn indicated in an interview that he is willing to bypass Phase Three clinical trials on a potential COVID-19 vaccine to fast track availability to the public.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to roll back a regulation that monitored the amount of toxic waste from coal fired plants that seeped into drinking water supplies.
- Environmental groups expect the rule signed to largely represent the draft version posted last November.
- The proposed rule from November would remove the mandate that utilities continually recycle their wastewater and instead allow them to discharge 10% of their water on a 30-day rolling average.
- The proposed rule would also offer utilities an extra two years to upgrade the waste treatment systems for scrubber sludge and exempt from those requirements the plants that said they would soon be retiring or operating for a limited number of hours per year.
- According to data released by the Department of Commerce, consumer spending in the U.S. rose more slowly in July than in previous months.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) planned to have a contractor review potentially questionable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans over $2M, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given approval for Amazon to operate as a drone air carrier in the U.S., meaning that Amazon will soon be able to start delivering commercial goods on a trial basis, according to published reports.
- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will extend their summer meal program to allow operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months. As school resumes for children across the country, this will allow children to continue to have access to meals.
- A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled that the Trump Administration was wrong to roll back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards increase of penalties for automakers who fail to comply with fuel economy requirements from 2015. The court vacated the Administration’s reversal meaning the CAFE base penalty rate of $14 is now in force.
- For Federal Register notices, please refer to the end of the update.
- According to published reports and Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has surpassed 6M confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- New cases are rising by more than 5%, based on a seven-day average, in 26 states. One week ago, new cases were rising by at least 5% in just 12 states.
- However, hospitalizations are down 37% in the past month.
- Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she would ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and pork, clearing a hurdle to smooth free-trade talks with the U.S government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed this decision.
- Mustafa Adib, who has served as the Lebanese ambassador to Germany since 2013, was selected to serve as Lebanon’s next Prime Minister.
Federal Register Notices
- The EPA issued a correction for test procedures used in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program finalized in a 2012 rulemaking. The correction clarifies the method for how flex-fuel vehicles are accounted for manufacturer fuel economy calculations in model years 2020 and later. This correction allows the program to be implemented as originally intended in the 2012 rule. The rule is effective beginning on November 30. The notice can be found here.
- The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission issued a notice of a virtual public open hearing in Washington D.C. on “U.S.-China Relations in 2020: Enduring Problems and Emerging Challenges” on September 9. The notice can be found here.
- The Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs of the Department of Commerce issued a notice of a public hearing of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. The meeting will be on September 23 from 1:30pm-3:30pm ET in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The meeting is open to the public via audio-conference. The notice can be found here.
- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce issued a notice of a virtual, online symposium on September 22, focusing on national spectrum policy development and the evolution of new techniques and technologies for federal spectrum management including spectrum sharing. The symposium will be from 8:30am-12:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice announcing a meeting of the North American Numbering Council (NANC), which will be held via conference call and available to the public via live internet feed on September 24 at 9:30am ET. The notice can be found here.
- The FAA announced that openings on the National Parks Overflights Advisory Group (NPOAG) have been filled for air tour operators and environmental concerns, while the opening for Native American interests is still vacant. Persons interested in applying for the NPOAG opening representing Native American interests need to apply by September 30. The notice can be found here.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) is proposing to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to implement a statute that prohibits the DoD from entering into contracts for the procurement of goods and services with any person that has business operations with an authority of the government of Venezuela that is not recognized as the legitimate government of Venezuela by the United States Government. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before October 30. The notice can be found here.