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COVID-19 Update | Thursday, July 2

July 2, 2020



  • The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 3398, the EARN IT Act, unanimously (22-0). The bill is intended to reduce child abuse imagery from social media platforms. The bill was passed with the Graham-Blumenthal manager’s amendment and the Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) amendment on protecting encryption. Both amendments were agreed to by voice vote. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) withdrew his amendment on prosecution but said he plans to offer it on the floor.
    • Under the manager’s amendment “sites would no longer be shielded from federal and state civil lawsuits for hosting third-party content that contains child sexual abuse material.” As originally written, the bill would make those protections contingent on companies proving to a newly crafted commission that they are doing enough to crack down on such content.
    • Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) amendment “excludes encryption” as something that could heighten liability for platforms.
    • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said that they have secured a yet to be named House sponsor to introduce companion legislation.
  • The Senate resumed consideration of its version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
    • The Senate agreed to vote on six amendments en bloc to the NDAA, which will require a 60-vote threshold for adoption.
    • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the underlying bill to expedite passage of the bill after the July 4 recess. The procedural vote to end debate on the bill will require a 60-vote majority.
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced that she would move forward on holding a hearing on the nomination of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Pendley has come under fire for past comments on the Black Lives Matter movement. Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he will oppose the nomination.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 4143, which would tie CARES Act unemployment benefits to state joblessness levels.
  • Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) told reporters yesterday that it is time for other Senate Committees, including the Committees on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, to develop their own bipartisan titles to the Senate’s surface transportation reauthorization legislation.
    • As a reminder, Chairman Barrasso’s committee passed their title, S. 2302, out of Committee last year.
  • The EPW Committee held a hearing titled “Better, Faster, Cheaper, Smarter, and Stronger: Infrastructure Development Opportunities to Drive Economic Recovery and Resiliency.”
  • Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to address the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recent report criticizing the agency’s strategy on 5G. The letter can be found here.
  • The Senate voted to pass the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which sanctions China for attempting to end Hong Kong’s autonomy. The bill was passed by the House unanimously on Wednesday night after minor changes were made. The bill will penalize individuals, banks, and any entities that enable China’s security law on Hong Kong. Experts have said that the new law that China placed on Hong Kong effectively ends any autonomy that Hong Kong’s legal system had from China.
    • The bill is now being sent to President Trump’s desk for signature.


  • The House of Representatives unanimously voted to extend the application period for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through August 8. Now, both the Senate and House have passed the extension and the bill heads to the President’s desk for signature.
    • The bill would extend the PPP deadline until August 8.
  • House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) is reportedly objecting to passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Ranking Member Bishop cited a provision that is tucked into the bill, H.R. 1957, that could potentially deprive Eastern states of hundreds of millions of federal dollars to add new forest acreage.
  • The House Armed Services Committee approved their version of the NDAA unanimously yesterday. The vote was 56-0. The bill included an amendment from Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), that removes confederate names from military bases and another amendment that bans confederate flags on bases. Additionally, the bill includes an amendment from Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) which would eliminate the position of Chief Management Officer for the Department of Defense (DOD). House floor consideration is expected later this month, although an exact timeline remains unclear.
    • The Committee added several measures related to PFAS contamination, including one that would require the DOD to follow the most stringent standard in cleaning up PFAS contamination from defense facilities, whether at the state or federal level.
    • Another amendment expressing support for DOD research and development to identify an alternative to firefighting foam with PFAS was also accepted.
  • In a letter, a group of Financial Services Committee Democrats, led by Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on Russia for allegedly placing a bounty on American troops.
  • In a letter, Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis (D-GA) asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to quickly deliver any outstanding stimulus checks and to implement procedures to ensure that taxpayers who have not received their payments can quickly get them. The letter can be found here.
  • On the vote for final passage of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, Democratic Reps. Ben McAdams (D-UT) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) voted no. Additionally, Republican Members Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) all voted yes. The full roll call vote can be found here.
  • The CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have agreed to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The hearing will come before lawmakers release their year-long probe into the technology companies and their recommendations for changing antitrust law. 

General Congress

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Gina Haspel briefed the Gang of Eight on the alleged bounty that had been placed on American troops by the Russian government. The Gang of Eight includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) , Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Intelligence Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), Senate Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Intelligence Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA).
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that the nation’s unemployment rate will not recover for at least a decade. If federal taxes and spending remain the same, CBO predicts that the annual unemployment rate will be 6.1%, which is a significant rise from the previous 4.2% unemployment prediction before the pandemic. The report can be found here.
  • CBO sent a letter to Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) outlining the latest data on who is receiving unemployment benefits. The letter found that those who have not graduated from high school are the least likely to receive benefits. The letter can be found here.


  • The Department of Labor announced that the economy added 4.8M jobs in June and that the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1%. However, these numbers likely do not reflect the job market with the new resurgence of COVID-19, as Americans filed 1.4M new applications for unemployment last week.
  • President Trump is expected to reveal final changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which outlines the process for environmental permitting reviews for federal projects. The changes are intended to streamline the process, but exact details have not yet been released.
  • President Trump said in an interview that he supports another round of stimulus payments to Americans and that he wants it to be larger than the $1,200 that is currently being proposed.
    • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would not change a policy that bars undocumented immigrants from receiving stimulus checks.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the House Democrats’ new climate plan, which was released by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this week, is unrealistic and will stifle economic growth.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a $3M public safety campaign aimed at preventing child deaths in hot cars, which is double what they usually spend on this issue.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO). The SAFO, which is numbered 20011, advised flight crews of the potential loss of Air Traffic Control (ATC) services in the event of an oceanic ATC facility shutdown and recommends mitigation procedures.
  • Following three days of certification test flights for the Boeing 737 MAX conducted by the FAA and Boeing, the next steps include determining what training pilots will need to fly the plane and reviewing final design documents from Boeing. The timeframe remains unclear, but experts speculate that the grounding will not be lifted until at least September.
  • The FAA released its national strategy, the Runway to Recovery, for helping with the recovery of the aviation industry from COVID-19. The guidelines build upon many of the mitigations airports and airlines have already deployed, reducing the health risk to passengers and employees, and helping prepare for an increase in travel volume.
  • The Treasury Department announced they will give YRC Worldwide, one of the biggest trucking companies in North America, a $700M loan in exchange for 29.6% equity in the company.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that they received 34,000 consumer complaints about online shopping in April and May, with many saying they ordered products that never showed up. The FTC report can be found here.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is reportedly facing a $1.2B budget shortfall because of the pandemic.
  • The Commerce Department released figures today showing that U.S. trade activity remained depressed in May after a record drop in April because of the economic fallout from COVID-19.
    • A Commerce Department report released on Wednesday showed U.S. foreign investment in the United States dropped 37.7% in 2019, despite certain trade, tax and regulatory policies aimed at encouraging more U.S. production.
  • The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Labor Department announced the names of the six Americans with backgrounds on labor issues who will serve on the agreement’s “rapid response labor mechanism” to investigate alleged labor rights violations. More information can be found here.
  • Federal Register Notices:
    • The Employee Benefits Security Administration issued a notice on the 200th meeting of the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans. The notice can be found here.
    • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued CARES Act supplemental apportionment allocation and program guidance. The notice can be found here.
    • The Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration posted a notice of opportunity to apply for membership on the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The notice can be found here.
    • The Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration issued a notice of opportunity to apply for membership for the Corporation for Travel Promotion Board of Directors (Brand USA). The notice can be found here.
    • The Executive Office of the President issued an amendment to Proclamation 10052. The notice can be found here.
    • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and DHS issued a 60-day notice on the collection of information on the Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program. The notice can be found here.

Other News

  • For the first time since the pandemic began, there were over 50,000 recorded COVID-19 cases in one day in the United States. Over 10,000 of these cases were recorded in Florida.
    • More than 800,000 new cases were reported across the country last month, led by Florida, Arizona, Texas and California — bringing the U.S’ officially reported total to just over 2.6M, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
  • The U.S. trade deficit rose for the third straight month, increasing 9.7% in May to $54.6B. Total exports in the United States fell 4.4% to $144.5B and imports only fell 0.9%.
  • Five airlines, including American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and SkyWest Airlines, agreed to terms with the Treasury Department on receiving CARES Act loans. These loans are separate from PPP loans and require the airlines to keep their workforce intact by barring them from cutting more than 10% of their workforce.
    • Treasury didn’t detail the amounts of the loans or the terms, but said the borrowers would have to provide warrants, equity stakes, or senior debt instruments.
  • The Urban Institute released a report that revenue collection is plummeting in states around the country. The report found that average state revenue dropped 20% in May 2020. The report also found that total revenue could drop by over $200B in 2020 and 2021. The report can be found here.
  • The Americans for Free Trade coalition sent letters to leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee stating that the U.S. economic growth is being burdened by the tariffs that the Trump Administration has placed on China. The letters called on USTR Lighthizer to create a more effective and stringent process for determining which products tariffs are placed on. The letter to the Ways and Means Committee can be found here and the letter to the Finance Committee can be found here.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a coalition of civil rights groups sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for legislation to be passed that would ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The groups are supporting the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, which was introduced last week by Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-WA) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
  • A coalition of technology groups, including Color of Change, sent a letter to European Union (EU) antitrust regulators about their decision on whether Google can acquire Fitbit. EU regulators have until July 20 to decide on whether to block the acquisition. The letter can be found attached.
  • The Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to consider whether the House of Representatives should be given access to grand jury secrets contained in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report. It is unlikely however, that a decision will be reached prior to the November election.
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