COVID-19 UPDATE | TUESDAY, JUNE 30
June 30, 2020
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging additional action on COVID-19 relief in the Senate. McConnell announced that the Senate will focus on COVID-19 relief upon its return from the July 4 recess on July 20.
- Majority Leader McConnell also announced plans to pass and send the next package to the President for his signature before Congress departs for the August recess, giving lawmakers three weeks to pass the legislation.
- The Senate continued consideration of S. 4049, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA). Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) offered a substitute amendment last night that included almost 80 noncontroversial amendments. It is still unlikely that the Senate will pass the NDAA before the July 4 recess.
- Senate Minority Leader Schumer and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the “Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act,” which includes $430B for childcare, K-12 education and higher education institutions. The bill includes a provision that would prevent the exclusion of undocumented college students from receiving funding.
- The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on returning to school and work amid COVID-19.
- The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing today titled “Safety on Our Roads: Overview of Traffic Safety and NHTSA Grant Programs.” The hearing examined the implementation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) highway safety grant programs, as well as key highway traffic safety issues.
- The House began debate on H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, and amendments to it. Of the close to 400 amendments that were filed, the House Rules Committee included 134 Democratic, 19, Republican, and 17 bipartisan amendments in the rule, making them eligible for House floor consideration.
- As a reminder, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 2, indicating plans to veto H.R. 2 in its current form last night.
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that H.R. 2 would add $450B to the deficit. They also announced that the bill would increase direct spending by $502.5B and decrease revenues by $213B over the next 10 years.
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House is not expected to be in session on Thursday. The House expects to proceed with consideration and final passage of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act tomorrow.
- The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s COVID-19 response.
- The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released its Congressional Action Plan to combat climate change. A set of one-page summaries of various components of the report, including agriculture, carbon capture, buildings, and others, can be found here.
- After Republican lawmakers received a briefing from the White House yesterday regarding reports that Russia offered bounties for militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Democratic lawmakers received one today. The Democrats, who included House Majority Leader Hoyer, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Bill Keating (D-MA), indicated that the briefing lacked substantive information.
- Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol have continued to express extreme concern with these reports and reports that intelligence was not shared with President Trump and Vice President Pence.
- The House passed H.R. 1425, the State Health Care Premium Reduction Act, in a 234-179 vote. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) voted with all Democrats except Collin Peterson (D-MN) to support the legislation. H.R. 1425 would expand Affordable Care Act subsidies for private health insurance, encourage Medicaid expansion in states that have not yet done so, and reverse Administration policies seen as undermining the Affordable Care Act.
- In a letter to several Federal agencies including the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Office of Management of Budget (OMB) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) requested information into the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) and compliance with their investigation.
- The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has received hundreds of tariff exclusion requests for medical goods from China that could be used to help treat COVID-19. USTR already temporarily exempted some personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical goods from the Administration’s tariffs on more than $350B worth of Chinese goods but asked companies for additional suggestions in late March.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is facing a backlog of 5M tax returns, which could delay much needed tax refunds for individuals amid COVID-19. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was questioned during a Senate Finance Committee hearing about the backlog and other concerns, including audit rates for 2018 tax returns.
- The IRS and the Department of Treasury decided not to extend the tax filing deadline beyond July 15. The Administration had been lobbied by conservative groups and the union representing IRS employees to further extend the deadline. State and local governments had lobbied for the deadline not to be extended further in order to provide much needed revenue.
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing test pilots made the first certification flight for the Boeing 737 MAX yesterday. The flights will continue throughout the week and will focus on the changes Boeing has made to the flight-control feature, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was critically involved in both MAX crashes.
- According to the most recent Unified Agenda, the FAA plans to release a proposed rule on secondary cockpit barriers in April 2021. The rule was mandated by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act (Public Law 115-254). According to the entry in the Unified Agenda, the proposed rule would apply to new applications for new type certificates of transport category airplanes, as well as newly manufactured airplanes entering service three years after the rule’s effective date.
- The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology met to discuss actions on future-of work issues, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, and Federal and national research labs. The council includes industry leaders and academics tasked with advising the president on science and tech policy matters that affect U.S. national security and the economy, the country’s standing in global innovation, and the general welfare of the American public. A list of members can be found here.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced their guidelines for approving a COVID-19 vaccine. The guidelines include that any vaccine must be 50% more effective than a placebo.
- Administration officials, including from the Departments of Defense (DoD), Commerce (DOC), and Transportation (DOT) have recently advocated for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse its approval of Ligado’s 5G plans. DoD also set up a webpage dedicated to its complaints about Ligado. As a reminder, some Federal officials and lawmakers have concerns that the plans will disrupt GPS.
- The FCC announced that they are designating Huawei and ZTE as national security threats.
- Reports indicate that the Administration has poured $10B into Operation Warp Speed, the joint defense-health project to speed up vaccine development for COVID-19.
- EPA announced they will end their pandemic-related enforcement policies on August 31 according to a memo released by the agency today.
- As a reminder, the EPA was not pursuing penalties against companies that were failing to comply with EPA standards during the past few months due to the pandemic.
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign prior to the July 4 holiday weekend. According to the full press release, Administrator David Pekoske joined leaders from three airport and airline industry associations to announce the campaign, which represents airport checkpoint modifications to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines, and support healthy and secure summer travel.
- Federal Register Notices:
- EPA, OMB and Department of Treasury issued a notice on the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) criteria. The notice can be found here.
- FAA and DOT issued a notice of proposed special conditions with respect to Boeing Commercial Airplanes Model 777-9. The notice can be found here.
- FCC issued a final rule on the Connect America Fund. The notice can be found here.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an interim final rule on temporary changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. The notice can be found here.
- The deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan is tonight at midnight. Over $130B reportedly remains unused.
- The European Union (EU) released its travel plan, which excluded the United States on the list of countries that will no longer face a travel ban.
- The EU has agreed to open their borders to some non-EU citizens beginning on July 1. Currently, only 15 countries are on the list of countries that can travel to the EU, including Canada, China, Australia, and New Zealand. However, the EU is hoping for reciprocity in travel rights, especially with China. The EU has singled out China and said if they do not receive reciprocity, that they will revoke access to their borders for Chinese citizens.
- Air Canada indicated that they are prepared to fight refund complaints made by customers to DOT. Air Canada argued that it complied with all the relevant regulations, that DOT’s recently issued enforcement notice is nonbinding and contradicts existing law, and that DOT trying to take enforcement action against the airline would run afoul of extraterritoriality concerns and conflicting foreign laws. It remains to be seen whether other airlines will follow suit.
- As a reminder, DOT received an extraordinary number of refund complaints this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with JFKIAT, who operates Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and XpresSpa’s new brand XpresCheck, launched the first COVID-19 testing and screening pilot program at a U.S. airport. The facility is open to all airport terminal employees, airline employees, and airport workers (including TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff). The facility has the capacity to test 500 employees per day and can test both for the virus and the antibodies. A full press release on the pilot program can be found here.
- Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW decided not to join the legal challenge of the Administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule. The automakers have voluntarily entered into greenhouse gas emissions agreements with California, while the SAFE Vehicles rule would roll back federal emissions standards.
- Airbus announced that it will cut 15,000 jobs by next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airplane manufacturer cited a steep decline in new orders from airlines. The majority of the jobs will be cut in Germany, France, the U.K and Spain.
- A coalition of states, cities, companies, trade groups and unions sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer asking for “robust and direct stimulus” to state and local governments. The letter can be found here.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said they will not support the H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, even after pressuring Congress to pass an infrastructure bill for the past several years. Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s Chief Policy Officer, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that H.R. 2 “does not and will not have the bipartisan support needed to become law.”
California’s state budget proposal includes a cut of more than $200B in spending. Governor Gavin Newsom is trying to overcome the state’s first deficit in eight years.