COVID-19 Update | Thursday, Aug. 13
August 13, 2020
Both the House and Senate are on recess with the next Senate vote planned for September 8 and the next House votes not expected until September 14. Lawmakers in both chambers have been instructed to be prepared to return to vote on a potential COVID-19 relief package if an agreement is reached.
COVID-19 Relief Negotiations
- As we reported yesterday, negotiations continue to be stalled. As of this writing, the four negotiators – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – are not expected to meet today or tomorrow and did not meet yesterday. This is the sixth day in row that the four have not met. There is an increasing sense that a deal will not be reached before September.
- President Trump this morning indicated he was opposed to relief funding in the next COVID-19 relief package for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). This opposition could further decrease the likelihood of a passing an agreement as Democrats are focused on USPS funding in the context of the November election, among other things.
- As a reminder, Meadows and Mnuchin had previously offered up to $10B for the USPS while Pelosi and Schumer were pushing for $25B.
- According to data from the Department of Labor, jobless claims fell below 1M this week for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country. Declining claims will likely further reduce the urgency to restart negotiations though there are still 25M Americans relying on unemployment benefits.
- Reports indicate that Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is working on a proposal to provide a 100% Federal cost share for infrastructure projects to attach to a surface transportation extension given that Congress is unlikely to pass surface transportation reauthorization before authorizations expire September 30. The proposal is designed to provide relief to state departments of transportation due to the revenue shortfall created by the COVID19 pandemic. Detailed language on the proposal is not yet available to the public, but Elevate will monitor and provide updates, as more details are released.
- House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), along with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-TX), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Ranking Member John Shimkus (R-IL) wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information on wastewater monitoring for COVID-19. The letter argues that monitoring of sewage wastewater can help the U.S. better address COVID-19.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and 173 other Democrats sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging the reversal of policies that have exacerbated an increase in delayed and undelivered mail. The letter text and a press release on the letter can be found here.
- The Treasury Department announced that Federal revenues were $563B July, twice the amount from 2019. The large increase was due to the July 15 tax filing deadline.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) ordered the suspension of all charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba with certain exceptions, such as for emergency medical reasons, search and rescue, and other travel that could be in the interest of the U.S. DOT created a 60-day “wind-down” period, which means the order will enter into effect on October 13. The purpose of this suspension, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is to increase economic pressure on the Cuban government. A press release from Pompeo can be found here.
- Reports indicate that DOT announced an extension of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) emergency declaration relaxing hours-of-service rules for motor carriers that are providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
- The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) Board of Directors unanimously voted to notify Congress of two potential deals with U.S. Steel Corporation worth $450M. These deals would help U.S. Steel complete approximately $1B worth of export sales and support 1,600 jobs. A press release can be found here.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler officially announced in Pittsburgh the Administration’s rollback of methane emissions regulations for new oil and gas wells.
- As a reminder, on Monday we reported that the EPA would repeal a 2016 rule that required companies to install stronger pollution control equipment at newly constructed oil and gas wells or other production facilities, and to search for and repair methane leaks. This repeal will apply to all wells that have been drilled since 2016 and remove the largest pipelines, storage sites and other parts of the transmission system from EPA oversight of smog and greenhouse-gas emissions
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) beat a legal challenge when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the majority of three orders to accelerate the deployment of wireless and wireline broadband infrastructure. The orders limited the fees which local authorities could charge and the amount of time they can spend to approve the installation of small-cell sites for 5G networks. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s statement can be found here.
- The next round of trade talks between the U.S. and the United Kingdom will take place in early September, according to a press release from the U.K. Department for International Trade.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) is close to announcing a reopening of an Arctic Energy Office in Alaska that will expand research into the region’s climate and how to adapt oil and gas production to it. The reopening of this office will help the Trump Administration’s efforts to increase U.S. influence in the Arctic.
- As a reminder, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at a May budget hearing that the DOE would have finalized plans on Alaskan operation within 90 days.
- The unpublished Federal Register notice on the Airbus retaliatory tariffs show that the U.S. will be removing one category of U.K. and Greek cheese and cheese substitutes, as well as sweet biscuits from the U.K. It also will add lingonberry, raspberry and other jams from France and Germany. The changes enter into effect on September 1. The unpublished FR is attached.
- As a reminder, yesterday we reported that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced minor changes to retaliatory tariffs against European products in response to the European Union’s (EU) subsidies to the aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The total amount of products subject to countermeasures will remain unchanged at $7.5 billion and the tariff rates will remain unchanged at 15% for aircraft and 25% for all other products.
- In a U.S.-brokered deal, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to formally normalize relations in exchange for Israel agreeing to suspend any plans to annex any portion of the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967 and is widely viewed as land that would go to an eventual sovereign Palestinian state. A joint statement by the three countries can be found here.
- Federal Register Notices:
- The International Trade Administration, within the Department of Commerce, announced that it is modifying its regulations under Part 351 of Title 19 to improve administration and enforcement of the antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) laws. The Department of Commerce will be accepting public comments of this proposed change until September 14. The notice can be found here.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a notice of a proposed rulemaking to amend its regulations governing the accommodation of utilities on the right-of-way (ROW) of Federal-aid or direct Federal highway projects to implement requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, for broadband infrastructure deployment. FHWA will be comments on or before September 14. The notice can be found here.
- According to an assessment from data analytics firm Govini, the number of Chinese suppliers to “Tier 1” Pentagon contractors has grown substantially in the last decade and that China-based companies are the largest supplier of telecommunications equipment and specialty chemicals.
- According to a report from the Washington Post, at least 202 aviation companies utilized multiple Federal relief programs passed as part of the CARES Act. These firms, which range from catering to aircraft maintenance to regional airlines, mostly used the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Payroll Support Program (PSP).
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin outlining its concerns regarding President Trump’s recently issued Executive Order (EO) on payroll tax deferral.
- According to a study from University of Texas at Austin researchers which was published in The Lancet, thousands of COVID-19 cases in the early stages of the global pandemic may have gone undetected in two of the first epicenters of the virus, Wuhan, China and Seattle.
- Facebook, Google, Twitter, Reddit, Microsoft, Verizon, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Wikimedia are all ramping up efforts for the election and election night, according to a joint statement released Wednesday. Below are some actions which the different companies are taking:
- Facebook launched its Voting Information Center, which is part of the company’s effort to register 4M new voters.
- YouTube, which is owned by Google, announced that it would remove content that has hacked information, that would interfere in the democratic process, and that would discourage people from voting.
- According to reports, Twitter will expand its rules against posting misleading information regarding voting, specifically as it relates to mail-in ballots.