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Advocacy Update | Thursday, Dec. 17

December 17, 2020

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.
  • President-elect Biden has reportedly tapped Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    • Regan is currently the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He previously worked for the Environmental Defense Fund and served in the EPA for eight years during the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
  • Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) has reportedly been selected by President-elect Biden to serve as Secretary of the Interior.
    • Haaland, as we reported previously, has been a favored candidate in consideration for the Cabinet position. On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had endorsed her to lead the Interior department, and 50 of her Democratic colleagues in the House sent a letter to the Biden Transition Team encouraging her selection.
    • If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to hold a Cabinet position in American history.


  • The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) today recommended emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine.
    • The Moderna candidate joins the Pfizer vaccine, which was authorized last week, in being distributed for use around the nation.
    • The Moderna candidate does not require extensive cold storage like the Pfizer one, which could help address some of the logistics difficulties associated with current vaccination initiatives.


General Congress

  • Negotiations on COVID-19 relief and omnibus government funding packages continue to occur. It is possible that there will be a continuing resolution (CR) through the weekend as the spending bill is written and voted on in both chambers.
    • The final COVID-19 relief package is not expected to include state and local aid or liability protections.
    • Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) claimed a remaining sticking point in negotiations is disagreement over increasing funds to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
    • Conversations are ongoing and fluid, but the bulk of the legislation is reportedly agreed upon.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has still yet to signed into law as President Trump continues to threaten a veto. Though the NDAA passed both chambers of Congress with a veto-proof majority, it remains unclear how House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and other Congressional Republicans would respond to a veto. As a reminder, Congress will have to vote again to override President Trump’s veto a vote that may be difficult for some Members.
  • Outgoing Ranking Member of House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) commented that he believes Congress and the Energy and Commerce Committee must continue efforts to reform Section 230. He described the current method used for political ads on television as a potential model for reform.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely announce Florida as the third state to take control of the federal “dredge and fill permitting program” for projects in the state. The program requires permits for discharge of dredged or fill material into waters under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Florida was likely selected because of the state’s stringent stream and wetlands protections.
    • There are concerns that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection does not have the necessary resources to implement the program.
    • Environmental groups have threatened litigation after the EPA determined that Florida may avoid Endangered Species Act consultations.
  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel announced that it will need an additional six months to determine whether the Trump Administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs violated global trade rules.
    • The delay in an international decision could impede the Biden Administration’s ability to quickly rescind the tariffs.
  • After the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) was unable to reach a deal to allow Brazil to access the U.S. sugar market, Brazil will impose a 20% tariff on U.S. ethanol exports.
    • Brazil is one of the largest recipients of U.S. ethanol exports and the U.S. has had duty-free access to the Brazilian market since August 31, 2019.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking tomorrow to reform positive train control (PTC) reporting requirements. The rule would give the FRA 45 days to respond to requests from railroads to change their PTC safety plans and require railroads to send the FRA a report on system failures and “positive performance-related information” every six months.
  • The Administration announced today the federal funding total allocated by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). $544.3M will go to seven transit infrastructure projects in Arizona, California, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Utah through FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.
  • U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said today that the U.S. will seek to ease tariffs placed on Scotch whisky exported from the United Kingdom, among other goods, like cashmere. The move would be part of a larger push to reach a post-Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, and to bring an end to the trade standoff between the two allies, which has generally centered on conflicts over steel and aluminum, as well as an ongoing dispute between Boeing and Airbus in the World Trade Organization.
    Other News
  • United Airlines announced that it will begin working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement a voluntary contact tracing program. Domestic and international travelers will be asked for their phone number and destination address during check-in. The program will begin in the coming weeks.
    • As a reminder, Delta Air Lines has a similar contact tracing program underway with the CDC for international travelers.
  • The Air Charter Safety Alliance has been formed by a collection of international business aviation groups to determine best practices, create an online resource, and begin an educational campaign about illegal charter flights. The Alliance aims to “combat illegal on-demand flights” that are “actively avoiding aviation authority oversight.”
    • Members of the Alliance include Associação Brasileira de Aviação Geral (ABAG), Air Charter Association, African Business Aviation Association, Asian Business Aviation Association, Business Aircraft Operators Association, British Business and General Aviation Association, European Business Aviation Association, French Business Aviation Association, International Business Aviation Council, Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association.
  • The Independent Mexico Labor Expert Board released a report on Mexican implementation of labor law reform, as was required by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The report found that Mexico “has made significant progress,” but has yet to implement all required changes. The goals that have yet to be reached include “union democracy, freedom of association and collective bargaining.”
  • Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, is the subject of yet another antitrust lawsuit, this time from a coalition of 38 states lead by Colorado and Nebraska. The lawsuit alleges Alphabet maintains monopoly power over internet search engines through anticompetitive contracts and conduct.
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