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November 24, 2020

Election and Transition News

–    After last night’s decision by General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy to authorize transition resources for President-elect Biden, agencies have moved quickly to begin working with the incoming Administration. 

·    Among the organizations reporting meetings with the Biden campaign are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Defense (DoD). The Department of Transportation (DOT), among others, had announced they would be reaching out to the President-elect soon. 

–    During a press event, President-elect Biden called for the Senate to promptly begin confirmation hearings for his cabinet selections, asking that they “work across the aisle in good faith to move forward for the country.”  

·    Currently it is unclear who would control the confirmation process given that the control of the Senate will be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia in early January.  

–    On Tuesday evening, President-elect Biden’s transition team named Lily Batchelder to lead the Internal Revenue Service transition efforts. Batchelder previously served as Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council under President Obama, after serving as the Senate Finance Committee’s majority tax counsel from 2010 to 2014. 


–    Elevate continues to closely monitor COVID-19 negotiations in Congress. At this point, no confirmed conversations are taking place on additional COVID-19 relief. However, it is possible that expiring COVID-19-related items, like the eviction moratorium and unemployment compensation, are addressed in a potential omnibus or continuing resolution-omnibus (“Cromnibus”) to avoid a government shutdown on December 11 at midnight. 

–    Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said today that states would have the final say on how to prioritize who receives the initial doses of any COVID-19 vaccine produced.  

·    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is set to issue immunization strategy guidance once the FDA has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for use. However, under Operation Warp Speed, the first doses of vaccine are scheduled to be released 24 hours after FDA approval is granted, raising concerns that distribution may be delayed while ACIP develops guidance.  

·    Secretary Azar said that there is no restriction or requirement for states to adhere to that guidance, and that governors would ultimately have “final say” over the distribution of the vaccine within their states—though, he did add that he hope states will take into account the guidance when making their decisions. 

–    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering shortening the period of time an individual should self-quarantine after a potential COVID-19 exposure from the current 14 days to 7-10 days, according to Dr. Henry Walke the CDC’s Director of the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections (DPEI) in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID).  

·    According to Dr. Walke, the CDC is still finalizing the new recommendations, including what type of test a person should take and the exact timeline for exit from quarantine. 

–    A federal judge ruled that the Small Business Administration (SBA) must release a full list of businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) by December 1. The list must include business names, addresses, and specific loan amounts, in the name of transparency and public interest. SBA had previously submitted a request to extend the timeline, potentially to appeal the decision. 


–    It’s been reported that appropriators in the House and Senate have reached a bipartisan agreement on a set of funding levels that establish overall totals for 12 appropriations measures.  

·    Congress will have two weeks to finalize the agreement to avoid a government shutdown by December 11.


–    The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation announced an executive session for next Wednesday, December 2 to consider the following nominees: 

·    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 

  • As a reminder, Simington would fill the seat held by Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, whose term expires at the end of 2020, and serve a five-year term. 


–    House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) wrote a letter to the Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) questioning the decision to create a new senior-level position within NOAA for David Legates. Legates is a meteorologist who does not view climate change as a threat. 

·    Rep. Johnson expressed her concern that Legates was appointed in order to influence the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and its National Climate Assessment, explaining that Congress was not informed of the position or Legates’ appointment. 

–    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that clarity be provided to small telecom carriers on the FCC’s proposed subsidy program to replace network equipment from the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. 

·    The FCC will vote on the subsidy rules, which have bipartisan support across Congress, in December. 

–    A group of Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urging an audit of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program. This program would expand rural broadband through hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. 


–    GSA finalized an $810M contract over five years with Uber and Lyft. The companies will offer their ride-sharing services to federal agency employees. 

·    The contract was tentatively awarded in April, when GSA said that it had negotiated 2-4% discounts. 

–    The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rule to create stricter definitions of “unfair and deceptive practices” is set to be finalized by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this month. The rule is widely supported by the airline industry and would decrease DOT’s authority to combat unfair and deceptive practices, which has largely been used for consumer protection purposes. 

Other News

–    The number of hospitalized individuals in the United States topped 85,000, setting a record for the highest count yet. Over 150,000 new cases were reported in total on Monday. 

·    Public health officials continued to urge Americans to avoid family gatherings on Thanksgiving, warning that they pose significant risk for new outbreaks and endanger older family members. 

·    Despite CDC guidance to avoid travel, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) recorded over 3M air travelers over the weekend, with Sunday marking the busiest travel day since the onset of the pandemic. That number is expected to increase significantly as the holiday approaches. 

–    The World Resources Institute released a report on environmental spending in relation to COVID-19 stimulus. The report found that environmental spending made up 16% of global COVID-19 stimulus, which is lower than the percentage of stimulus for the 2008 financial crisis

·    Global environmental measures have included $520B for railways, energy efficiency, grid modernization, renewable energy, and waste management. 

·    The leaders of COVID-19 environmental spending are the European Union, France, and Germany. 

–    Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China would consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.  

·    This announcement, along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal that was signed last week, further increases pressure on the Biden Administration to address Pacific trade issues and the expanding economic influence of China. 

–    The International Air Transport Association (IATA) revised their 2020-2021 economic outlook for the airline industry to reflect $118.5B of expected losses in 2020. This is a 41% increase from the original projection of $84B. 

·    The IATA expects an additional loss of $38.7B in 2021 and does not foresee passenger miles returning to 2019 levels until 2024. 

–    The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that the Boeing 737 MAX will likely return to service in a “matter of weeks.” EASA completed its 20-month assessment of the 737 MAX and published a proposed airworthiness directive to address safety issues. 

·    The directive will change the aircraft design and require pilot training programs, which will include flight simulator training. 

–    The United Kingdom (U.K.) is seeking to pass the Telecoms Security bill, which would give the government increased authority over the security policies of telecom operators and prohibit the use of equipment from Chinese companies when constructing 5G networks. 

·    Specifically, the bill targets Huawei and ZTE as “high-risk.” 

–    The U.K. will implement new international travel regulations, which will go into effect on December 15 and allow international travelers to leave quarantine after five days if they receive a negative COVID-19 test result. 

–    The European Court of Justice ruled that a German hotel can sue, despite the fact that Booking is registered in the Netherlands. This ruling applies to all European Union member states. 

·    The German hotel claimed that it had to agree to Booking’s terms and services changes, even though they contradicted competition law. 

–    The European Union will release its Intellectual Property Action Plan tomorrow, along with a study on artificial intelligence (AI). The study found that AI can help in the assessment of patents but cannot fully replace work done by humans.  

·    The study also recommended the creation of a regulator to plan and oversee the system of AI patent assessment. 

Federal Register Notices

–    The Department of Energy announced a virtual meeting of the National Petroleum Council that will be held on December 15 from 2:00-4:00pm ET. The notice can be found here

–    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested comments on proposed rules to require disclosures for broadcast programming that is paid for by a foreign government. Comments are due by December 24. The notice can be found here

–    The FCC announced the availability of a recording of its open meeting held on November 18. The meeting discussed the 5.9 GHz band, satellite regulations, 17 GHz satellite service, telecommunications relay and speech-to-speech services, review procedures, licensing, and enforcement. The notice can be found here

–    The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested comments on proposed revisions to design and standards for new construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation projects on the National Highway System. Comments must be received by December 24. The notice can be found here

–    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested comments on a request for information (RFI) on the impact of COVID-19-related changes made by health care systems and providers in order to identify best practices. Comments must be submitted by December 24. The notice can be found here.  –    The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced a meeting of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) and requested comments on the agenda. The meeting will discuss critical infrastructure, workforce, and talent management and will be held on December 10 from 1:45-4:00pm ET. Comments must be submitted by November 30 and requests to attend must be received by December 7. The notice can be found here.

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