COVID-19 Update | Monday, June 1 (PM)
June 1, 2020
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated the Senate will soon pass the House-passed H.R. 7010 to ease Paycheck Protection Program loan requirements from eight to 24 weeks. Senate leadership is expected to try to pass the bill today.
- The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing this Wednesday on “The State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The hearing will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on surface transportation and the supply chain.
- The interest on the part of Senate Republicans to pass another relief/stimulus package is growing.
- Committee Chairs have been meeting with Majority Leader McConnell to discuss options.
- While the House-passed HEROES Act calls for an additional $3T in spending, Senate Republicans are likely to propose significantly less. There continues to be discussion around including broadband in any infrastructure package.
- S.3398 – The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act), which would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, is expected to be marked up as early as this week. Section 230 largely immunizes online service providers (websites, social media platforms, apps, etc.) from liability for the actions of their users.
- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the legislation in March.
- In the House this work is being led by Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), in coordination with others, who are working on their own proposals, on a Section 230 bill.
- We are hearing that multiple Members are exploring ways to address Section 230 and expect several bills to emerge in June. The President’ s Executive Order, in response to Twitter, continues to be a focal point of attention. As a reminder, President Trump recently signed an order directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to review potential cases of anti-conservative bias on behalf of social media platforms under its Section 5 authority, a provision that gives the FTC the authority to sanction companies that engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. It also directs the Commerce Department to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reexamine the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will introduce a privacy bill together with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) today or tomorrow.
- Elevate has learned that the legislation will not include a private right of action, a significant issue for many in Congress.
- Elevate understands the Senate Appropriations Committee may markup legislation the third week of June, consistent with our previous reports that the Committee is hoping to have all bills reported out of the Full Committee by the July 4 recess.
- Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) called on the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control to provide clear and comprehensive standards to protect air travelers from coronavirus. Senator Hirono asserts the current system in place is inconsistent and voluntary.
- The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to spend next week marking up the NDAA bill. Senate floor action is likely the week of the June 15th or 22nd .
- The House is in recess though committees are still holding hearings. As a reminder, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced a new schedule, which included “committee work periods” during which there would be no scheduled votes, but key committees, such as the Appropriations Committee, would hold businesses. The House is next scheduled to vote on May 30th.
- Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) is leading an effort, through two pieces of legislation, to push the Pentagon to take steps to lower the risks military bases face from water shortages and electrical grid vulnerabilities. Rep. Crow plans to incorporate the two draft bills into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to ensure that the U.S. is addressing the threats of climate change on military bases.
- One bill requires the Pentagon to review water scarcity at military installations every 10 years.
- The second bill would authorize $25M to mitigate vulnerabilities in electrical infrastructure. The text of this legislation is not yet available publicly.
- House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats plan to release the text of the surface transportation reauthorization bill as early as this Wednesday. It will include three main titles (highway, transit and rail) and is largely in line with the framework released by House Democrats earlier this year. While there is no specific climate-related title in this bill, there are climate and resiliency related polices throughout the bill. The bill is currently a five-year authorization totaling $476B, with $311B for the highway title, $105B for transit and $60B for rail.
- The highway title includes major changes, including but not limited to a $28B dedicated bridge investment program, increased focus on state of good repair as it pertains to the national highway performance program, funding for a new national 50-state Vehicle Miles Traveled pilot program to research alternative funding mechanisms for transportation infrastructure, and doubling of funding for Vehicle Miles Traveled pilots focusing on cybersecurity.
- There is a new apportionment program, one focused on climate change mitigation and one on resiliency. Additionally, there is increased funding for bike and ped infrastructure and reforms to the national highway performance program to dissuade unnecessary capacity expansion projects.
- In the transit title, there is a 57% increase in formula funds and a focus on frequency of service. There is a required rulemaking for federal, state, and local transportation and transit agencies, on data sharing practices. Buy America rules are expected to be used to close off “loopholes” in rolling stock procurement requirements.
- Additionally, there is a secondary formula for agencies that have old busses to help them upgrade, as well as funding for zero emission buses. The title also has an increased focus on low-income riders, worker safety and frontline workforce training and innovation.
- The new $19B passenger rail improvement program will cover what was in State of Good Repair, operational improvement, and passenger rail improvement. High speed rail will also be eligible. The bill also will reauthorize Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) and provide several rail safety reforms.
President Trump plans to deploy “federal assets” to cities across the nation in response to protests after the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The White House has indicated that the Administration plans to set up a command center to direct protest response and work with state and local officials that will include Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr.
Brooke Rollins, the White House’s top domestic policy adviser, said on Monday that President Donald Trump is exploring a range of bipartisan initiatives to attempt to unify the country amid a nationwide eruption of racial unrest and protests.
A spokesperson for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the U.K. would veto any effort for Russia to rejoin the G-7. President Trump announced on Saturday that he is postponing the annual G-7 summit until September and is planning on inviting four non-member nations, including Russia.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also has said that Russia’s return to the G-7 is unacceptable.
All decisions on membership must be backed unanimously by the G-7 members.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has awarded $628M to Emergent BioSolutions to increase the country’s vaccine manufacturing capacity. This agreement is part of Operation Warp Speed, a Trump Administration initiative to speed the development of the COVID-19-related drugs.
This agreement extends on an already existing $163M agreement with Emergent.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump Administration is considering action aimed at countering the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation of alleged war crimes committed by U.S. officials in Afghanistan. Pompeo said that the United States is not consenting to this investigation and that the ICC has “become corrupted.”
This is another international organization that the United States has condemned, after pulling funding from the World Health Organization on Friday.
The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that U.S. meat production is returning to nearly last year’s capacity. However, concerns about the safety and health of plant workers remain, as at least 44 meat plant workers have died.
A spokesperson for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated they have received more than 4,400 complaints due to COVID-19 related problems but have only issued a single citation.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has left tens of billions of dollars on the table of uncollected tax money from high-income, non-filers, according to an audit released today. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that $45.7B was owed by almost 900,000 high-income non-filers for the tax years 2014 through 2016. The IRS chose not to pursue almost 400,000 of these cases, which were worth an estimated $20.8B.
The Trump Administration will limit the number of chartered flights to Cuba at 3,600 per year. The move is another step in its attempt to impose restrictions on Cuba.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced its final rule limiting states’ ability to veto infrastructure projects over water quality concerns. The rule mirrors a proposed rulemaking in August and limits the types of issues that states, can use to justify blocking a federal permit for Clean Water Act projects.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released updated information regarding CARES Act grants to Airports, including FAQs for airports who received grants. The FAA also updated information for airport sponsors. The documents can be found here.
- Gilead, the manufacturer of the drug Remdesivir, said that five days of treatment with the drug will help moderately ill coronavirus patients improve. However, their studies also found that a 10-day dose of the treatment appears to have no meaningful effect compared to the normal standard of care.