Advocacy Update | Tuesday, Dec. 15
December 15, 2020
Election and Transition News
- A series of high-level Biden Administration selections were reported on Tuesday.
• President-elect Biden will reportedly select former Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg was previously a Democratic presidential candidate and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. During his presidential candidacy, Buttigieg quickly released an infrastructure plan that totaled over $1T.
• Former Michigan Governor, Jennifer Granholm, was reportedly selected to serve as Secretary of Energy. Granholm, who served two terms as the Governor of Michigan, has extensive experience with the auto industry which is expected to be a key component of President-elect Biden’s clean energy agenda and was involved with President Barack Obama’s transition team prior to his first term.
- Gov. Granholm is an advocate of clean energy. She has been a Senior Research Fellow at the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, and a project scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, since leaving office.
• Gina McCarthy, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator under President Obama, has reportedly been selected to serve as the administration’s point person on its domestic climate agenda. Currently, McCarthy is President of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
• McCarthy would serve as the domestic counterpart to John Kerry, who was announced last month as President-elect Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy on Climate, to represent the U.S. in global climate affairs.
- Following yesterday’s meeting of the Electoral College, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) officially recognized Joe Biden as the President-elect. Leader McConnell congratulated both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.
• President-elect Biden said that he would meet with Leader McConnell soon after the two spoke on the phone today.
- Congressional leadership remained committed to passing a COVID-19 relief package on Tuesday, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared: “We’re not leaving here without a COVID package.”
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hosted a meeting this afternoon with Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in an effort to reach a compromise on government funding before the end of the legislative session/Congress. Secretary Mnuchin, who had spoken with Speaker Pelosi earlier in the day, was also expected to join the meeting by phone. Another meeting was scheduled for this evening.
- The text of two bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills were released last night, though lawmakers are still negotiating the potential combination of the two bills into one package that could be attached to the omnibus spending bill.
• It remains unclear if Congressional leadership will support combining the legislation or move ahead with legislation that excludes the bill on state and local aid and liability reform in order to reach a bipartisan agreement.
• It is also unclear if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will hold up the passage of government funding by Friday’s deadline in order to advance additional stimulus checks. Senator Sanders has consistently said that additional checks are necessary.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine as “highly effective.” An independent advisory panel will now meet on Thursday to determine whether to recommend emergency use authorization, which would trigger the shipment of 6M vaccines.
• As a reminder, the Federal government doubled its initial 100M dose order of the Moderna vaccine Friday.
- Congressional appropriators are expected to announce a government spending omnibus deal and potentially release legislative text on Wednesday. If deliberations on the Omnibus and the COVID-19 bill are not concluded soon, it is possible that another Continuing Resolution will be needed. Congress could pass another continuing resolution to allow for voting over the weekend which could set up final passage and signature by President Trump early next week. If a funding bill is signed this weekend, another CR may not be necessary as most federal functions (aside from National Parks and a few others) are dormant on non-work days.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing entitled “The Role of Private Agreements and Existing Technology in Curbing Online Piracy.” The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the current state of copyright enforcement on online platforms and investigate how voluntary agreements can be reached to protect content creators and users from online piracy.
• During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Thom Tillis (R-NC) affirmed that the Subcommittee will continue working on the issue of online piracy in the next Congress.
- Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to extend the Section 301 tariff exclusions that are set to expire at the end of the year through December 31, 2021. The Senators cited the need to counter the threat posed by China to international trade, while continuing to mitigate the damage that tariffs cause to U.S. companies.
- A bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to Sen. Majority Leader McConnell and Sen. Minority Leader Schumer, urging the leaders to include a bill to end surprise medical billing in any end-of-year spending legislation. The Bipartisan Working Group backed the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act of 2019 (S.1531), saying that there “will never be a broader bipartisan, bicameral solution to ending surprise medical billing.”
- House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging the creation of a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the House. The letter highlighted the importance of vaccinating the Capitol’s frontline essential workers and recommended that the House follow the existing flu vaccination model.
• It remains unclear if members of Congress will receive priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
- Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and 17 other House Democrats sent a letter to Democratic leadership urging reforms to the motion to recommit, which is a procedural tool that allows last-minute changes to a bill on the House floor. The letter proposes that the requirement to adopt a motion to recommit is raised from a simple majority to a two-thirds vote.
• Given the slim majority for Democrats next Congress, it is expected that House Republicans will use the motion-to-recommit to force difficult votes for frontline Democratic members and impact the legislative process on the floor of the House.
- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced a bill (H.R. 8961) to reform privacy protections for online messages on third-party communication service providers, while protecting consumer privacy and providing necessary access for law enforcement.
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of seven other members introduced the COVID–19 Vaccine Awareness Support Act (H.R. 8966) to raise public awareness of the COVID-19 vaccine through an advocacy campaign.
• According to a press release, the bill would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to distribute grants for public awareness campaigns that would provide information and promote participation.
- The Senate companion bill was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
- Jeffrey Rosen will serve as the Acting Attorney General for the remainder of the Trump Administration. Rosen is currently Deputy Attorney General, a position to which he was confirmed by a 52-49 Senate vote. He previously served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Trump Administration.
- Today is the EPA’s self-imposed deadline to publish rules in Federal Register in order to solidify them before President-elect Biden takes office.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $6.2M that will fund nine public transportation improvement projects through the Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning. This is the A list of the projects can be found here.
• As a reminder, the FTA previously announced projects to receive funding under this program in June using FY 2019 funds. A list of those recipients can be found here.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai encouraged Congress to conduct a “top-to-bottom rewrite” of cable television law in light of major streaming companies, citing the insufficient state of federal rules on the current media marketplace.
- FCC attempts to decrease media ownership restrictions will be considered by the Supreme Court on January 19.
- Facebook has announced it will lift its political ad ban only for ads targeting Georgia voters for the January Senate runoff elections. Facebook’s broader political ad ban remains in place.
- A collection of major farm groups released a “roadmap for trade, supply chains, and the future of American agriculture” to guide the Biden Administration. Specifically, the groups called for President-elect Biden and Congress to review and repeal all Trump Administration tariffs, as they harm U.S. agriculture.
• Additionally, the report recommends that President-elect Biden reach new trade agreements in Southeast Asia, rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and negotiate a phase two trade deal with China that would repeal retaliatory tariffs.
- Canada requested that a U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) panel review the 7.42% countervailing duty rate on Canadian softwood lumber that was set by the Department of Commerce. Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng said that the duties are “unwarranted and unfair.”
• Minister Ng also raised the possibility of Canada requesting a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel.
- The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance released a list of electric vehicle (EV) principles to provide guidance on how to advance the EV market through future legislation and regulation. Members of the alliance include Amazon, AT&T, Best Buy, Ceres, DHL, Exelon, IKEA, Siemens, National Grid, and Uber. The EV principles are:
• Increased variety of zero-emission vehicles.
• Expanded cost-effective and flexible charging infrastructure.
• Transparency on the timing and availability of new models.
• Cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles.
• Renewable energy integration into the electricity grid.
• Collaboration with electric power companies and utility regulators.
• Charing standards that facilitate system interoperability.
• Decarbonization of public transit and regional transportation.
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has finalized regulations that will implement greenhouse gas emissions limits. The new emissions limits use an estimated baseline of levels as they were in 1990, and call for a 40% reduction in emissions from that baseline by 2030, on the way to an 85% reduction by 2050.
• The new regulations bring the state in line with the direction of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019.
• The new limitations do not come with any prescriptions or recommendations to reach the targeted reductions, and the state’s Climate Action Council continues to deliberate on the matter. An inventory of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and offsets from land use and other activities, is planned for next year.
- Notably, the regulations’ measurement mechanism considers the short-term impacts of methane, as well as the consideration of upstream emissions from fossil fuel extraction and transportation.