COVID-19 Update | Monday, July 20 (PM)
July 20, 2020
The House and Senate are both back in session.
- Democratic leaders sent a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray asking for an urgent briefing arising out of concern that Members of Congress are being targeted by a foreign operation intended to influence the 2020 election.
- The four signatories of the letter were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA). All are members of the Gang of Eight, a group of eight lawmakers who are briefed on classified intelligence by the Executive Branch.
- The Congressional Oversight Commission in charge of overseeing COVID-19 relief funds released its third oversight report. Members of the Commission include Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Bharat Ramamurti, a former advisor to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In the report, the members questioned why YRC Worldwide, the fourth largest less-than-truckload transportation and logistics company, received a $700M national security loan. The report said that that the company did not meet either of the requirements to receive a national security loan.
- The Senate confirmed Russ Vought to be the Director of the Office and Management and Budget (OMB) in a 51 to 45 party line vote. As a reminder, Vought has been serving as Acting Director since January 2019.
- Meetings began today between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows regarding the next COVID-19 relief package. We expect this week to be a lot of posturing and messaging with bipartisan negotiations truly beginning late this week and next week.
- Elevate expects Senate Majority Leader McConnell to begin socializing details on his initial offer with Senate Republicans today and tomorrow at Senate Republicans’ policy lunches and then publish legislative language or overall policy principles on Wednesday.
- McConnell’s offer is expected to be around $1T and include a narrow set of Republican priorities setting up stiff negotiations with Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi the next three weeks.
- As a reminder, President Trump has once again doubled down on wanting payroll tax relief included in the package, even going as far as to threaten a veto of the legislation if payroll tax relief is not included. Payroll tax relief has little to no support in Congress on either side of the aisle.
- Additionally, Mnuchin and Meadows met with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to discuss the package. The Senators are the three most senior Senate Republican appropriators.
- The House has begun floor consideration of H.R. 6396, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA). The rule for the consideration of the legislation was passed in a 224-166 vote with Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) joining all Democrats in voting to support the rule. Notably, 31 Republicans and 8 Democrats did not vote on the rule.
- House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) proposed an en bloc amendment that included over 150 amendments made in order by the rule. This grouping of amendments may allow for quicker consideration of the NDAA, but Republicans have requested roll call votes on all other amendments to date.
- After completion of votes this evening, the House will continue to debate amendments to the NDAA with any further votes postponed until tomorrow. According to the weekly schedule published by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House is scheduled to complete consideration of the NDAA by the end of the day tomorrow.
- House appropriators unveiled the second government funding package to be considered on the House floor next week. The package is comprised of seven bills, including the Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills. The Legislative Branch appropriations bill is the only one to not be included in the two minibuses that have been introduced. A press release on the second minibus is here. A division-by-division summary of the second minibus is here.
- Notably the minibus includes $206.7B in emergency supplemental appropriations outside the Fiscal Year 2021 budget caps to address the effects of COVID-19.
- The House passed a three-year extension of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program of the Department of Homeland Security (S.4148) by unanimous consent. The program, which was extended by the Senate on July 2, authorizes funds that help protect more than 3,000 facilities around the country from terrorist attacks. Facilities include explosive manufacturers, chemical plants, mining facilities and laboratories. The bill is expected to be signed by President Trump.
- The Georgia Democratic Party began the process of replacing the late Rep. John Lewis on the ballot, who passed away on Friday, July 17. The party announced that State Senator and Georgia Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams will replace Lewis on the ballot. It is likely that whomever replaces Lewis on the ballot will be the next Representative, as the district has been represented by Democrats since 1973.
- A special election for the remainder of Lewis’ term has not been announced.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that tax credits for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and reemploying workers will be Administration priorities in the next COVID-19 relief package. Mnuchin emphasized that the Administration does not support unemployment benefits that do not incentivize workers to go back to work.
- These comments were made amid the start of negotiations between the Administration and both parties in Congress this week on the next round of COVID-19 relief. The impending expiration of unemployment benefits will be a key issue in the negotiations.
- President Donald Trump announced that he would begin hosting daily televised COVID-19 briefings again, beginning on Tuesday, July 21 at 5:00 pm Eastern Time. The briefings, which were a daily source of information regarding the Federal response to COVID-19 early during the pandemic, have since become more sporadic. It is unclear whether they will feature members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, such as Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidelines for federally funded healthcare providers to address racial disparities in COVID-19 health care.
- OMB completed its review of a rule that would create a standard for carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines. Boeing has been pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the rule so the company can have its engines certified in the U.S. The final rule is not yet available to the public.
- California, New York, New Mexico, Washington, and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe filed a complaint to the United States District Court of Montana asking to block the Interior Department from issuing new coal mining leases on Federal lands. The legal challenge argued that the Bureau of Land Management had wrongly limited the scope of environmental assessments from earlier this year.
- An early stage vaccine trial from Oxford University in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca resulted in a strong immune response from COVID-19. The trial had over 1,000 participants and produced both neutralizing and killer antibodies to combat the infection.
- A vaccine trial from CanSino Biologics, a Chinese company, also showed results producing antibodies and immune cells from the virus. The vaccine was tested in 500 volunteers. The results of the trial can be found here.
- The number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) grew by 17% from February to May, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The report can be found here.
- According to a study from the University of Chicago, employers are utilizing widespread pay cuts and pay freezes to keep their business open during the pandemic. The report said that 7M workers have received a pay cut since February and 1 in 8 American workers have seen their paychecks shrink since February. The report can be found here.
- The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced that the U.K. government would be suspending its extradition deal with and would stop sending weapons to Hong Kong.
- As a reminder, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be arriving in London on Tuesday to meet with Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- A group of U.K. Uber drivers filed a complaint against the company in the Netherlands over the company’s alleged inability to provide the drivers access to their personal data. The complaint argued that under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, Uber has also failed to provide transparency over the company’s algorithm.
- The National Association of Manufacturers led a letter requesting Congress allow corporations to allow businesses to take advantage of their general tax credits, such as the R&D tax credit, work opportunity tax credit, and renewable energy tax credit, more quickly. The letter argues that this will allow companies to have access to increased liquidity as they continue to combat falling revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) asked for a request of information on whether it should create a public-private partnership to set standards for financial technology.