COVID-19 UPDATE | MONDAY, NOV. 9 (Afternoon)
November 9, 2020
The Senate will be in session today. The House will return next week.
- The race was declared for Joe Biden on Saturday by the media as both Nevada and Pennsylvania were called. President-Elect Biden currently holds 279 Electoral College votes with Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina yet to be called. If current results hold, Biden could have 306 Electoral College votes in the end.
- President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris gave a nationwide address on Saturday evening declaring victory.
- As a result of the election, California Governor Gavin Newsom will need to appoint someone to fill Senator Harris’s seat for the remainder of her term, which ends in 2022. Among the potential replacements that have been reported are California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, among others.
- With races in Alaska and North Carolina yet to be called, it is continued to be expected that control of the Senate will hinge on the outcomes of the two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5.
- Both parties currently have 48 seats, but Republican incumbents Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are both expected to retain their seats.
- As of this morning, 23 House races have yet to be called with Democrats holding 216 seats and Republicans holding 196. 218 seats are required for the majority in the House. Of the seats yet to be called, Republicans lead in 15 and Democrats lead in eight. If those results hold, Democrats would have a 224-211 majority in the 117th House.
- A slimmer House majority will allow Republicans to use procedural tools to force vulnerable Democratic Members into tough votes, which could make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) job more difficult.
- As Congress returns post-election, it is important to remember the major pieces of legislation that remain outstanding before the end of the 116th Congress. They are:
- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – House and Senate negotiators have discussed that they are not as far apart as they were last year but some points of contention, including the renaming of military bases that carry the name of Confederate leaders, remain outstanding.
- Appropriations – The current continuing resolution (CR) runs through December 11. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Pelosi have commented since Election Day that their goal is to pass an omnibus appropriations bill rather than an additional CR.
- Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) – WRDA is currently on track to continue its timeline of being passed every two years. House and Senate negotiations have been ongoing all summer. It is unlikely that the Senate will officially consider its version of WRDA.
- COVID-19 Relief – Both Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi indicated after the election that there is renewed interest to consider additional COVID-19 relief before the end of this Congress. The topline amount for the package will likely remain a point of contention as Speaker Pelosi has indicated a continued desire for a broad package while Leader McConnell reiterated his desire for a targeted package.
- Senate appropriators are expected to release their fiscal year 2021 appropriations legislation Tuesday. As a reminder and mentioned above, the current CR runs through December 11 and this release will allow negotiations between the House and Senate to continue and elevate to the Member level.
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the following three nominations:
- Mr. Greg Autry to be Chief Financial Officer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Mr. Daniel Huff to be Assistant Secretary of the Department of Commerce
- Mr. Nathan Simington to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission
- In a Tweet this afternoon, President Trump terminated Secretary of Defense Mark Esper from his role. In the same Tweet, President Trump announced that Christopher C. Miller, the current Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately.
- The Trump Administration’s deregulation agenda is now facing a ticking clock as President-Elect Joe Biden will put a freeze on unfinished rulemakings as soon as he takes control of the Oval Office. The current Administration is therefore expected to publish a number of rulemakings, so-called “midnight regulation,” between now and January in a variety of policy areas.
- President-Elect Biden is likely to tackle Section 230 and related issues upon entering the White House. How the President-Elect will address issues related to Section 230 is unclear, but reports indicate that the new Administration does not intend on pushing President Trump’s executive order targeting Section 230 further ahead.
- The President-Elect also, according to his new transition website, plans on focusing on broadband expansion, universal broadband, and the 5G buildout generally to help support economic recovery.
- 5G/broadband is widely viewed as an area for bipartisan agreement in the next Congress/Administration.
- As we reported Friday, the European Union (EU) is expected to announce retaliatory tariffs on close to $4B worth of American goods today as part of the ongoing trade battle between the U.S. and the EU regarding subsidies for Airbus and Boeing. The EU won a case before the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year authorizing the retaliation.
- The WTO is reportedly delaying its decision on selecting its next Director General. General Council Chairman and New Zealand Ambassador David Walker said on Friday that the WTO delegations would not be able to make a decision today, citing the U.S. elections and other reasons.
- As a reminder, the choice is between former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, who the U.S. supports.
- A broad coalition of business groups wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week under the “Americans for Free Trade” banner requesting an extension of China tariff exclusions past their current December 31 expiration date. The group is calling for a six-month extension.
Southwest Airlines announced on Friday that it will make its first furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting 42 workers in its maintenance division. The airline, which is making its first-ever furloughs, had held off on cutting workers while other major U.S. airlines moved forward in doing so earlier this fall.