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Advocacy Update | Monday, Dec. 21 (AM)

December 21, 2020

High-level Summary of Year End Package

  • Congress reached an agreement on a year-end package including both the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 omnibus funding legislation and a COVID-19 relief package. We expect a final vote on the package in the House and Senate today. The Senate may be delayed depending on delay tactics by individual Senators. Below is a summary of the omnibus funding legislation and the COVID-19 relief package based on reports.
  • The COVID-19 relief package has a topline of $900B and the omnibus has a topline of $1.4T. The total package amounts to approximately $2.3T. In the House, the vote to pass the end-of-year funding bill will be split into two votes. One will include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DoD), Commerce-Justice-Science, and Financial Services appropriations bills. The other vote will include the rest of the 12 appropriations bills and the COVID-19 relief package.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement on the COVID-19 relief package after an agreement was reportedly reached. The statement, which outlines certain provisions that Congressional Democrats secured, stated “today, we have reached agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates.”
    • Congressional Democrats also crafted the attached COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package – Topline Summary of New Agreement.
  • As a reminder, there is still a second bill remaining that includes $160B in funding for state and local governments and liability protections, which was not included in either the COVID-19 relief package or the omnibus. These issues will be re-litigated next year.
  • Within the package, the following is included:
    • $166B for direct payments of $600 to be issued to individuals making up to $75,000 yearly, or couples making up to $150,000 yearly. Individuals or couples with child dependents will receive an additional $600 per dependent.
      • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that these payments will begin to be issued next week.
    • $120B to extend the Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits introduced under the CARES Act, adding an additional $300 per week for unemployed Americans. The additional $300 will be available through March 14, 2021.
    • $325B for small businesses, including $284B in funding for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
    • Eligible businesses likely will include those with fewer than 300 employees and a 25% revenue loss in any quarter of 2020.
    • Expands the PPP to include eligibility for 501(c)(6) organizations, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), local newspapers, and TV and radio broadcasters.
    • $15B in funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.
    • $45B in transportation aid, including:
    • $15B for airlines via the Payroll Support Program (PSP)
    • $14B for mass transit
    • $10B for state Departments of Transportation (DOTs)
    • $2B for airports, including a set aside for airport concessionaires
    • $1B for Amtrak
    • $13B to support food stamp benefits, although the bill reportedly does not expand eligibility.
    • A surprise billing agreement that shields patients.
    • $69B for vaccines, testing, and tracing, including:
    • $20B to purchase vaccines
    • $9B for vaccine distribution
    • $22B to states for testing and tracing programs
    • $25B in federal rental assistance and a continuation of the eviction moratorium.
    • $1.3B in federal loan forgiveness to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and a historic expansion of Pell Grant eligibility.
    • $7B to expand broadband access, including:
    • $300M for rural areas
    • $250M for telehealth
    • Tax extenders, including:
    • Several energy efficiency deductions
    • Extension of the oil spill liability trust fund and carbon oxide sequestration credit
    • Other renewable energy incentives

Election and Transition News
• Visit Elevate’s Transition 2020 Hub to see the most up-to-date lists of rumored and announced Cabinet members and staff.
• The Biden Transition Team is reportedly expecting that some confirmation hearings will take place before the January 20 inauguration, which has traditionally been the case for previous Administrations.
• President-elect Biden introduced a team of six different White House and Cabinet officials who will oversee eliminating U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century. The group will include:
• Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy as the National Climate Adviser
• Ali Zaidi, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment, who will be McCarthy’s Deputy
• North Carolina regulator Michael Regan as EPA Administrator
• Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) as Secretary of the Interior
• Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy
• Brenda Mallory as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
• President-elect Biden also announced additional members to the White House economic policy team. As a reminder, Brian Deese was chosen to be Director of the National Economic Council. The new members include:
• David Kamin to be Deputy Director of the National Economic Council
• Bharat Ramamurti to be Deputy Director of the National Economic Council for Financial Reform and Consumer Protection
• Joelle Gamble to be Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
• Some Senate Republicans over the weekend signaled that there would be pushback to some of President-elect Biden’s Cabinet selections. Specifically, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) indicated that the confirmation of Michael Regan to be EPA Administrator may be contentious, in addition to Rep. Haaland as Secretary of the Interior and former Governor Granholm as Energy Secretary, due to their past support for specific legislation, public remarks on fossil fuels and other issues, and rulemakings related to water resources/infrastructure.
• Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) highlighted the slow pace of appointment for President Trump’s nominees as a reason for the potential slow movement through the Senate of President-elect Biden’s nominees. Barrasso warned that if Republicans keep the Senate, Biden’s nominees will “have to run the gauntlet”, citing what he characterized as the mistreatment of Trump’s nominees by Democrats.
• Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who served as U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) from 2005 to 2006 under President George W. Bush, publicly supported Katherine Tai as President-elect Biden’s choice for USTR, commenting during a Center for Strategic and International Studies event that he is “glad that [she] is the likely nominee.”
• As a reminder, outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also had positive comments about Tai last week when he said he expected her to be tough on China.

• As reported above, Congress has reached a deal on a new COVID-19 package to be passed in conjunction with a year-end spending bill. The package reportedly totals approximately $2.3T. Congressional Democrats made it very clear that this bill is just a start and that they will pursue further COVID-19 relief once President-elect Biden takes office.
• The Moderna vaccine was formally authorized for emergency use in the United States. Distribution is slated to begin in the coming days, further enhancing the number of vaccines available to the public.
• Unlike the Pfizer vaccine already in use, the Moderna vaccine does not require deep freezing to remain stable over extended periods, potentially alleviating some logistical challenges associated with vaccine distribution.
• The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the Moderna vaccine for use by holders of FAA-issued Airman Medical Certificates or Medical Clearances performing safety-sensitive aviation functions.
• President-elect Biden intends to take the Pfizer vaccine today, accompanied and subsequently televised by the press pool, to help encourage public trust in the vaccine.
• General Gustave F. Perna, the Chief Operating Officer of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, apologized to the nation and took responsibility for a discrepancy in the number of Pfizer vaccines promised versus the number received by states.
• Some states reported receiving fewer vaccines than they were originally allocated. Virginia’s Department of Health announced on Friday that the state would be receiving 370,650 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the next wave of shipments, down from the expected 480,000, and California governor Gavin Newsom reported last week that the state’s next shipment was to be only 233,000 doses, down from 393,000 expected.
• A more infectious strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been detected in patients from the United Kingdom, prompting the strictest measures yet in London and travel restrictions into and out of the nation.
• The new strain of SARS-CoV-2 does not cause more severe illness or impact the effectiveness of vaccination but does increase the infectiousness of the virus. At least 60% of new infections in the United Kingdom over the last week were attributed to the emerging strain. The strain is believed to be a significant (though not the sole) driver of recent increases in disease rates in Britain.
• In response to the new strain and escalating rates of infection, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new “Tier 4” of COVID-19 restrictions, requiring all non-essential businesses to close, and for households to shelter in place, with no mixing or gathering for holidays. Travel is restricted for all but essential work, education, or health care, and residents from Tier 4 areas are not allowed to stay outside of home overnight. The new Tier 4 restrictions encompass London and its surrounding areas, affecting 16M people—30% of England’s population.
• Following the announcement, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on U.K. travel. France has banned all travel from the U.K. for 48 hours starting at midnight on Sunday, including freight entering from the Channel Tunnel.
• After a potential COVID-19 exposure, California Governor Gavin Newsom will enter quarantine, again, for 10 days. A staff member of his tested positive for COVID-19.

General Congress

• President Trump has still not vetoed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He has repeatedly threatened to veto the bill over renaming of military installations, limits on troop withdrawals and the lack of Section 230 repeal language.
o The NDAA passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities but, as we reported previously, a veto from President Trump would require additional votes in the House and Senate where Republican lawmakers may be less willing to vote against the President.
o President Trump has until Wednesday to veto the legislation and there are rumors that the House could come back on December 28 to vote on a veto override, which would give the Senate ample time to come back to invoke cloture and attempt to pass the veto override before the Congress must adjourn sine die. As a reminder, the President has 10 days, not including Sundays or the day the White House receives a bill, to veto legislation.


• Over the weekend, Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the incoming Biden Administration asking to ensure that those appointed to his Administration are equipped “with the staff, budget, and coordinating power needed [to] supercharge the federal fight against the existential threat of climate change, in a way that also catalyzes and empowers local and state initiatives.” The letter specifically calls on the Administration to create an “overarching entity” that reports to the President-elect and is fully in charge of coordinating a national climate strategy across all federal departments and agencies.
• Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to USTR Robert Lighthizer Friday urging him not to include Section 230 protections in a free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
• The Senate passed H.R. 4031, the GLRI Act of 2019, which would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. As a reminder, the Trump Administration tried cutting funding for the Great Lakes Program, a program that has seen significant bipartisan support, but reversed course this year and began supporting it.
o The Great Lakes Program’s primary responsibilities are to “maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem,” according to the EPA.
• The Senate did not confirm two inspectors general due to 12 Republican absences from the vote. The Senate voted 39-48 on procedural votes to confirm both John Chase Johnson to become Inspector General of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Eric Soskin to become Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (DOT).
o Majority Leader McConnell voted against the two nominees, which affords him the ability to bring the two nominees back to the floor whenever he chooses.
o Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) opposed Johnson and urged her colleagues to do so as well.


• The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a federal panel of experts advising the CDC, over the weekend recommended that those 75 and older and essential workers, including firefighters, teachers, grocery store workers, and others, should receive the COVID-19 vaccine first. The panel also recommended earlier in December that healthcare workers and those residing in nursing homes should receive the vaccine first as well.
• The EPA released interim guidance this past Friday, which was mandated by lawmakers as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which denotes the current status of science behind a host of technologies that are available for use in destroying certain products, like firefighting foam, stain-resistant carpeting and manufacturing waste that contains PFAS, and more. The guidance, entitled “Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Materials Containing Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances” can be found attached.
• The U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIM) board last week approved a new content policy specifically to support U.S. exports in high-tech industries such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and others. The policy is part of EXIM’s new “Program on China and Transformational Exports (China Program)” and applies to these 10 sectors.

Other News

• The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Friday indicated plans to “ramp up scrutiny” of the risks of climate change at banks and in financial markets under the incoming Biden Administration. The group provided a verbal road map of how they will work together to approach issues surrounding climate change in the Biden Administration, which included pursuing standardized disclosure requirements for public companies and financial firms that support high-emitting carbon industries.
• A draft agreement is expected today on a Northeast regional cap-and-trade program for emissions from car and truck fuels. The agreement, however, is not expected to include New York or New Jersey, who plan on continuing further discussions on how best to cut down on high emitting transportation/infrastructure and raising revenue and increasing awareness of electric vehicles, mass transit, and other clean transportation alternatives.
• Twitter is expanding its COVID-19 content misinformation policies to meet the evolving online conversation on vaccines.

Federal Register Notices

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held meetings of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on December 11 from 12:00-5:00pm ET and December 12 from 11:00am-3:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.
• The Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced that the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) will begin accepting applications on December 21 until January 19. The program has a remaining $22M in grants to expand renewable fuel sale and use. The notice can be found here.
• The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requested comments on the renewal of an information collection on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) Application. Comments must be submitted by January 20. The notice can be found here.
• The FAA and National Park Service (NPS) announced a meeting of the National Parks Overflights Advisory Group (NPOAG) that will be held on January 22 from 1:30-4:30pm ET. The meeting will discuss air tour management plans. The notice can be found here.
• The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee (WAC) that will take place on February 23 at 11:00am ET. The meeting will discuss preparations for the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23). The notice can be found here.
• The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) that will be held on February 4 and February 5. The meeting will discuss COVID-19 vaccine safety, equity, and communication activities. The notice can be found here.
• The Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration announced a meeting of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board that will take place on January 13 from 1:00-2:30pm ET. Registration requests must be received by January 6. The notice can be found here.
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requested comments on its interpretation of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The interpretation states that Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) conditions and procedures apply to compliance testing and that “manufacturers are not required to ensure that their vehicles are designed in such a manner as to ensure that the vehicles are capable of being tested pursuant to such standards as a condition of self-certification.” Comments must be submitted by January 20. The notice can be found here.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) corrected the renewal and expiration dates of the Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) charter. The charter was renewed on December 11, 2020 and will expire on December 11, 2022. The notice can be found here.

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