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COVID-19 Update | Friday, Aug. 7

August 7, 2020


The Senate and House are not in session. Lawmakers in both chambers have been instructed to be ready to vote on a COVID-19 relief package next week.

COVID-19 Package Negotiations

  • A meeting this afternoon resulted in no progress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that the meeting was disappointing and indicated that Republicans would not agree to a deal that was above $1T. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed similar sentiments that no progress was made and that the same issues that we have previously reported on were being discussed.
    • Secretary Mnuchin indicated that he felt as though agreement on state and local relief, as well as unemployment insurance, would yield an overall agreement.
      • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) suggested that Republicans do not understand the scope of the issues facing Americans.
      • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that Democrats are the ones who have failed to meet the needs of the country.
    • Following Friday afternoon’s meeting, the White House indicated that President Trump could sign Executive Orders over the weekend on the following issues:
      • Extending the currently expired eviction moratorium;
      • Halting student loan payments;
      • Suspending the payroll tax; and
      • Extending enhanced unemployment benefits.
        • Note: It is unclear how much legal authority the President has to act, and his actions are likely to be challenged in court.
    • Speaker Pelosi indicated during a press conference today that Democrats were willing to decrease the topline spending on the next package by $1T if Republicans were willing to increase their topline by the same amount. This would bring total spending on the next package to more than $2T. Speaker Pelosi indicated, however, that this offer was rejected.
  • President Trump said that he would require state and local governments to utilize $81B of the remaining CARES Act funding to provide unemployment benefits. However, it is not clear if Trump’s plan is legal and Democrats believe it is a violation of Congress’ spending powers.


  • Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, announced that he is putting a proposal together that would implement rapid COVID-19 testing in the Senate.
  • Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to move quicker on regulations for autonomous delivery vehicles. The letter argues that autonomous vehicles could be an extremely valuable innovation during the pandemic.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation to create an Inspector General for the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to increase transparency and accountability within the office. A press release on the legislation can be found here. Bill text can be found here.
    • Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) introduced companion legislation in the House.


  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) led a letter of over 50 Democrats in both chambers to the White House Council on Environmental Quality asking them to release public records on the President’s Executive Order to use his emergency authority to waive environmental laws and speed permitting of infrastructure projects. The letter can be found here
  • House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) sent a letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell asking why they did not include job retention requirements in the emergency lending “Main Street” program for midsized businesses or make it more accessible to smaller firms. It also urged that changes be made to the program to address these issues.
    • Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) sent a letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell on Tuesday calling for certain changes to the program to make it more accessible.


  • According to the Department of Labor, the July unemployment rate was 10.2%, down from April’s 14.5%. However, the unemployment rate is still significantly higher than the 3.5% rate from February, before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were fully felt in the U.S. Additionally, the Labor Department reported that 1.8M jobs were added in July, a slowdown from the 4.8M which were added in June.
  • President Trump signed two Executive Orders today regarding Chinese technology companies. The first Executive Order prohibits transactions with ByteDance, who owns TikTok. The second Executive Order bans transactions with Tencent, which owns WeChat. President Trump cited national security concerns as the reasoning for his orders. The Executive Orders will take effect on September 20, giving time for an American company to purchase TikTok.
    • In response, TikTok issued a statement that they were shocked by the action and would pursue all legal avenues to ensure that they are “treated fairly.”
  • President Trump announced a 10% tariff on all aluminum imports from Canada, confirming what we reported previously. A statement from USTR can be found here. A statement from the White House can be found here.
    • Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the move was “unwarranted and unacceptable” and said that they will retaliate with a dollar-for-dollar tariff. Canada can only retaliate on aluminum according to the USMCA agreement.
  • President Trump added Arizona, California, and Connecticut to the list of states that would not have to cover 25% of the cost of the National Guard deployment in their state.
    • As we previously reported, President Trump extended the deployment of the National Guard through the end of the year to assist with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic but required states to cover 25% of the cost. He initially exempted Texas and Florida from having to pay the 25% share.
  • The Treasury Department announced that it will impose sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam by adding her to the list of Specially Designated Nationals, which is managed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. This is the latest move by the Administration to curb Chinese government influence in the semi-autonomous city.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that NextGen, the multibillion-dollar air traffic upgrade, has been delayed again. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said that the pandemic has caused reduced access to FAA facilities and stalled maintenance plans.
  • A Federal District court judge ruled in Amtrak’s favor in a lawsuit about the railroad’s arbitration policy. The judge ruled that the lawsuit from consumer advocacy group Public Citizen had alleged an injury that was “too speculative” because Amtrak did not invoke its arbitration provision against them.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest federally owned electric utility, announced that it would rescind its decision to lay off IT workers following President Trump’s comments earlier this week. As a reminder, President Trump removed two TVA board members in response to the original decision and signed an Executive Order on hiring related to the decision as well.
  • Federal Register Notices:
    • The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued two requests for comment on whether the proposed 3.7-4.2 GHz band Relocation Payment Clearinghouse satisfies the selection criteria established by the Commission in the 3.7 GHz Report and Order. Comments are due August 18 and replies are due August 28. The notices can be found here and here.
    • The FAA Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee announced that they will be holding a meeting on September 16 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.

Other News 

  • According to the ENO Center for Transportation, Highway Trust Fund (HTF) receipts in July were $3.84B, a $201M increase from July 2019. The data suggests that Americans have increased driving amid the pandemic, potentially as an alternative to air travel.
  • As a follow up from our reporting about Chicago’s public schools beginning the fall semester online, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that school districts across the state, including New York City, which is the largest public school district in the country, are authorized to open for in-person learning. A press release from Governor Cuomo’s office on the decision can be found here.
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