COVID-19 UPDATE | MONDAY, NOV. 23 (EVENING)
November 23, 2020
Election and Transition News
– Today, General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy announced in a letter that GSA is initiating the formal Presidential transition process after ascertaining that President-elect Biden is the “apparent winner” of the 2020 Presidential election. Such action will allow Biden to coordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on January 20, 2021.
· President Trump tweeted shortly after the letter was first reported on that he recommended the transition begin and that it is in “the best interest of our country.”
– Cabinet Watch
· In total, President-elect Biden has now announced two Cabinet secretaries:
- Antony Blinken, to be Secretary of State
- Alejandro Mayorkas, to be Secretary of Homeland Security
- Mr. Mayorkas was predicted by Elevate Government Affairs to be a likely choice for his new position.
· Earlier today, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal that former Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, would be chosen to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury. This news has since been widely reported. Ms. Yellen was previously the Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014-2018 and would be the first woman to lead the Department of the Treasury.
§ Ms. Yellen was predicted by Elevate Government Affairs to be a likely choice for her reported new position.
· Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, resigned today from her position with the City, triggering speculation that she is preparing to join the incoming Biden Administration. While she has not been formally announced, Trottenberg is a member of President-elect Biden’s transportation transition team, was formerly an Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation and served as staff to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
· You can view other possible Cabinet Appointees in Elevate’s Biden Administration Primer.
– The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted today to certify the state’s Presidential election results, solidifying President-elect Biden’s victory in Michigan.
– The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to the Biden transition team urging President-elect Biden to appoint Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) candidates to his Cabinet and “ensure that AAPIs account for at least seven percent of cabinet-level and other appointed personnel within the federal workforce.”
– Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) released an opinion piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer urging the GSA to ascertain President-elect Biden’s victory and release the federal funds to allow the transition process to move forward. Sen. Portman also stated that the Biden transition team should begin to receive briefings on intelligence and the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
– The GSA will brief Congressional Committee Chairs and Ranking Members next Monday on the presidential transition process. Briefings will be provided to the House Oversight and Reform and Appropriations Committees and Senate Appropriations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Environment and Public Works Committees.
· As a reminder, the briefings are in response to a letter from Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Mike Quigley (D-IL) requesting a briefing from GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.
– A group of former Republican and Democratic Secretaries of Treasury and economists sent a letter to Congress urging the passage of an additional COVID-19 relief package. The letter supported public health funding, enhanced unemployment benefits, food security programs, eviction protection, state and local funding, and small business support.
– As the news of three effective vaccine candidates brought an optimistic tone to the global fight against COVID-19, public health authorities from the federal level down to the local levels are preparing to receive and distribute hundreds of millions of doses in the coming months.
· Among the obstacles remaining before the deployment of the vaccine is the verdict of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on who should receive the vaccines first.
· The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Defense (DoD) are collaborating on distribution methods, and supply chains are being set up to prepare for the public dissemination of millions of doses that have already been produced.
– AstraZeneca, who co-developed with Oxford University the newest vaccine to be announced as having a high level of efficacy, stated that it will begin submitting data from its trials to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other pharmaceutical regulatory bodies in nations around the world, to get their vaccine granted emergency use authorization.
· Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, both of which had in recent days announced their own successful vaccine candidates, are also in the process of seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA.
– Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced that she will not seek her position as the top Democrat on the Committee in the 117th Congress. According to the statement, Feinstein will continue to serve on the Senate Intelligence, Senate Rules and Senate Appropriations Committees in the next Congress. Feinstein has served as Ranking Member since 2017 and the next Senators in line for the position are Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
– Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act (H.R. 8802) to support the tourism and hospitality industries. The Senate companion bill was introduced by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). According to a press release, the bill would:
· Establish tax credits for attending or hosting a convention, business meeting, or trade show during 2021-2023.
· Establish tax credits for restaurants’ costs associated with increasing or decreasing service through the end of 2022.
· Create a tax credit for travel expenses.
· Improve the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
· Repeal changes to the Entertainment Business Expense Deduction made in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
– Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced the American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act (H.R. 8800) to prohibit companies on the Department of Commerce Entity List and Department of Defense Communist Chinese military companies list from accessing U.S. capital markets.
· According to a press release, the bill would ban the companies from being listed on securities exchanges and from receiving funding from investment companies, insurance companies, and retirement funds.
· The Senate companion bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Braun (R-IN).
– The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened over 1M people at airports on Sunday, making it the busiest air travel day since COVID-19 restrictions began. TSA also screened over 1M people on Friday.
· TSA Administrator David Pekoske predicted that this Wednesday and Sunday will also see record air travel numbers.
– Delta Air Lines and WestJet announced that they will no longer move forward with their proposed joint venture, citing steep requirements from the Department of Transportation. Under those requirements, the application for antitrust immunity only would have been approved if the companies divested 16 slots at LaGuardia Airport.
– A group of biofuel and farm organizations submitted a request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to enforce the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) add 500M gallons of biofuel as part of the volume requirement under the Renewable Fuel Standard. This requirement was in response to a 2016 finding that the EPA had made its biofuel mandate too low.
· The group suggested a six-month compliance deadline for the EPA.
– The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United National agency, released a report which found that the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions due to COVID-19 has had little impact on the total CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
· The finding contradicts the earlier prediction that COVID-19 lockdowns would cause global emissions to decrease by 8%.
– General Motors (GM) announced that it will withdraw from the Trump Administration’s lawsuit against California’s authority to enforce greenhouse gas rules for automobiles. In a letter to environmental groups, GM CEO Mary Barra also committed to working with the Biden Administration and California on national emissions rules and increased manufacturing of electric vehicles.
· Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) encouraged other automakers to withdraw their support of the Trump Administration. Toyota has said that it is “assessing the situation.” – G20 leaders held a summit and released a declaration on Sunday committing to lead the global movement against COVID-19’s impacts on global health and the economy. Specifically, the leaders pledged to assist developing countries to obtain vaccines and treatments and by extending debt-relief programs.