COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, Aug. 4
August 4, 2020
The Senate is in session. The House is not. House lawmakers have been told to be available to vote on a COVID-19 relief package, subject to the call of the Speaker.
COVID-19 Package Negotiations
- Negotiations on the COVID-19 relief package continue to show no real progress. The earlier deadline of passing a package by this Friday will likely slip by at least another week. Elevate believes it is highly unlikely that Congress breaks for the August recess without agreeing on some sort of another COVID-19 relief package.
- Negotiators continue to include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains out of the room but is closely following the negotiations.
- President Trump and Meadows have hinted at potential executive action on the eviction moratorium and payroll tax; however, it is unclear whether the authority for the President to take these actions unilaterally exists.
- Specifically, reports indicate that the White House is contemplating three Executive Orders that would delay the collection of federal payroll taxes, reinstitute an expired eviction moratorium, and extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits using unspent money already appropriated by Congress under the CARES Act.
- As a reminder, Federal unemployment insurance expired last Friday, the eviction moratorium ended July 25, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is set to expire on Saturday.
- Elevate believes that the Democrats want a comprehensive deal that addresses core issues to the caucus and will stay until one is reached. Issues include:
- State and local funding;
- Hazard pay;
- Election security and Postal Service funding;
- Housing and rent relief;
- Unemployment insurance;
- Extensions and more money for small business loans, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and for other payroll support programs;
- School reopening funding;
- Money for broadband; and
- Assorted other funding streams (e.g., money for airports).
- There is talk of a smaller package that would include, at a minimum, school reopening money, an unemployment insurance extension, PPP continuation and eviction moratorium continuation. The rest would be punted until September. Democrats are saying they won’t accept that but there will need to be middle ground.
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the Senate should cancel its August recess until a deal is reached, while Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) speculated that negotiations could take another two weeks.
- Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said there is a possibility a continuing resolution for appropriations will be folded into this stimulus package if there is still no deal by September.
- The Senate confirmed Mark Menezes to be the Deputy Secretary of Energy in a 79-16 vote. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) were the only two Republicans to vote against the nomination.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton to investigate insider trading allegations ahead of the Trump Administration’s planned $765M loan to Kodak Pharmaceuticals in late July.
- Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the 21st Century Buy American Act, which would make it more difficult for federal agencies to grant waivers to Buy American requirements. The bill would authorize the Department of Defense to make or guarantee loans under the Defense Production Act to domestic manufacturers. Additionally, it would require the General Services Administration (GSA) to establish a website detailing all waivers and exceptions that have been requested or granted. Bill text can be found here.
- Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) will introduce companion legislation in the House.
- President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, H.R. 1957, into law earlier today.
- As a reminder, the legislation will provide $900M in mandatory annual funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and billions toward addressing the maintenance backlog of U.S. parks and public lands.
- Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that entrance to national parks and public lands will be free on August 6 to celebrate the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and that in future years, August 4 will be a free entrance day for national parks to commemorate the signing
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled proposed changes to a nationwide permitting program to allow federally protected waterways to be dredged and filled if the activity has minimal impact on the environment. A press release on the proposed changes can be found here.
- President Donald Trump extended the deployment of almost 25,000 members of the National Guard to aid in COVID-19 relief efforts around the country. However, the President also has required states to pay 25% of the funding for the National Guard.
- President Trump yesterday signed an Executive Order titled “Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers.” The Executive Order bars Federal agencies from dismissing U.S. citizens or green card holders and replacing them with foreign workers, specifically targeting H1-B visas.
- Published reports indicate that the Executive Order was aimed at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest federally owned electric utility. Trump removed TVA board chairman James Thompson and board member Richard Howorth, accused TVA CEO Jeff Lyash of being overpaid and criticized TVA’s decision to outsource IT jobs resulting in the laying off of 62 workers in the U.S.
- President Trump also signed an Executive Order which would expand access to telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic, direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to announce a new payment model that would allow rural hospitals to alter their healthcare services and direct the federal government to launch a joint initiative in 30 days to improve healthcare communication infrastructure and to expand rural healthcare services. More information on the Executive Order can be found here.
- President Trump withdrew the re-nomination of Mike O’Rielly to be a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). O’Rielly notably received opposition from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) over the FCC’s decision regarding Ligado.
- Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and top advisor to President Trump, Peter Navarro said that the sale of TikTok to Microsoft made him uncomfortable and a portion of the TikTok sale proceeds should go to the U.S. Treasury.
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Affordable Clean Energy Rule for power plants now has a court date of October 8 in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Federal Register notices:
- The FCC issued a notice that it has already substantially complied with the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 and specifically with the prohibition adopted in the 2019 Supply Chain Order. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a document which announced the 3.7 GHz Transition Final Cost Category Schedule of Potential Expenses and Estimated Costs, the optional lump sum payment amounts for which incumbent Fixed Satellite Service earth station operators are eligible, and detailed the process and deadline for electing to receive lump sum payments. The notice can be found here.
- Maryland, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Massachusetts will work together to directly buy 3M (500,000 per state) rapid COVID-19 tests from manufacturers. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) said that more states may join the testing compact in coming weeks.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and a coalition of other trade groups who filed a lawsuit against the Administration over visa restrictions has asked the court for a preliminary injunction. The groups said that the visa restrictions will cause “specific, acute and irremediable” harm to the major American companies.
- The Global Business Travel Association sent a letter to Congressional leadership with a list of asks for the next COVID-19 relief bill, including asking for liability protections for travel-related businesses, funding for rapid testing and an extension and expansion of the PPP to aid more businesses.
- Multiple trade groups, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the International Franchise Association, the Live Events Coalition, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the National Independent Venue Association, and the National Restaurant Association wrote a letter to Congressional leadership urging the inclusion of the RESTART Act (S. 3814/H.R. 7481) in the next COVID-19 relief package.
- As a reminder, the RESTART Act would create a new loan program for the hardest-hit industries. The program would allow 7-year loans, capped at 45% of 2019 gross receipts up to $12M, with 100% federal guarantee for the life of the loan, for companies with up to 5,000 employees.
- The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the trade group which represents independent truckers, asked Congress to suspend the heavy vehicle use tax, which averages around $550 per truck, to reduce the financial burden faced by small truckers due to COVID-19. The letter can be found here.