COVID-19 Update | Friday, Dec. 11
December 11, 2020
Election and Transition News
- Visit Elevate’s Transition 2020 Hub to see the most up-to-date list of rumored and announced Cabinet members and staff.
- A reported top contender for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President-elect Biden, Mary Nichols, is receiving criticism from environmental justice groups. They claim her career’s work does not sufficiently demonstrate focus on low-income communities and people of color.
• Though Nichols developed aggressive climate and pollution regulations while Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), they raised concerns that the policies did not sufficiently address racial inequity, reflecting the increasing importance of environmental justice in climate policy.
- President-elect Biden’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense, retired General Lloyd Austin, is drawing criticism due to his ties to the defense industry. General Austin is a board member of Nucor, the largest American steel producer that has contracts with multiple major defense companies and Raytheon.
• Additionally, General Austin’s need for a waiver to serve as Secretary has caused a stir among some members.
• President-elect Biden has staunchly defended his choice.
- House and Senate leaders have reportedly started to negotiate legislative language on various components of a COVID-19 relief package that are viewed as non-controversial, which includes additional funding for small businesses. As a reminder, state and local funding and liability protections remain the two most controversial issues that have stalled negotiations up to this point. These negotiations are part of the $908B bipartisan package, but Republicans remain skeptical that a consensus will be reached on the outstanding issues of that deal.
• The bipartisan group has also been drafting language for $160B in state and local aid, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that Republicans will not support it.
- Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe announced today that the United States, Canada and Mexico have agreed to extend travel restrictions on non-essential travel implemented in March through January 21.
- In a letter sent to Congressional leaders (attached with this update), the CEOs of multiple high-profile defense contractors called for the extension of aid that would allow them to keep employees on the payroll even if federal facilities close.
• The letter, signed by the CEOs of contractors like Deloitte, Leidos, CACI International, General Dynamics, and others, called for the extension of the Section 3610 of the CARES Act.
• Section 3610 allows the government to reimburse contractors for employee pay, even if those employees cannot access the federal facilities to do their job. The program was slated to end on September 30, but was extended to December 11 with the CR that kept the government open to the same day.
• The CR passed today would extend the program until December 18, at which point, it will end, as it is not included in COVID-19 relief legislation under consideration at present, nor is it currently slated to be included in any of the omnibus funding proposals.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today that indoor dining would be prohibited in New York City beginning Monday, December 14. The announcement comes as the COVID-19 uptick has increased dramatically, with Governor Cuomo noting that the rising rates and population density of the city call for urgent measures.
• Critics of the move have said that the action was focused on the wrong cause of transmission, and that businesses would be jeopardized for little benefit. Governor Cuomo himself recently noted that in-home social gatherings were the primary driver of increased COVID-19 transmission in the state, comprising 74% of cases.
- The Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today in an 84-13 vote, which is larger than the two-thirds majority necessary to override a president veto. However, if President Trump does veto the legislation, the House and Senate would have to vote again to override the veto, something lawmakers may be less inclined to do.
• The bill will now go to President Trump, who has threatened to veto the bill based on the renaming of military bases and lack of Section 230 repeal.
- The Senate also passed the continuing resolution to extend government funding for one week by voice vote. This avoids a government shutdown and moves the deadline to reach a more comprehensive agreement to next Friday, December 18 once signed by the President.
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a bill (S. 5001) to promote the construction of clean federal buildings by 2030 through energy and resiliency improvements. The bill would amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
- Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bill (S. 5009) to amend Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility for small businesses and organizations.
- The House will hold the vote to select the Speaker of the House on January 3, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will likely be reelected. However, the vote will be more complicated given the slim Democratic majority. Speaker Pelosi must win a majority of votes cast “for a person by name,” which means that Democrats cannot vote for anyone else and only a limited number of members can vote “present.”
- Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and 32 other House Democrats introduced the Transit Parity Resolution (H.Res. 1258), which states that public transit is a national priority and must receive equal funding to highways.
• According to a press release, highways receive 80% of federal transportation program funding while public transit receives only 20%.
- Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Michael Burgess (R-TX) introduced the ATVM Modernization Act (H.R. 8933) to expand the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program to include energy-efficient aircraft.
• As stated in a press release, the bill aims to address the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by aviation by developing clean aviation technology.
- Reps. John Larson (D-CT), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), and Jim Himes (D-CT) introduced the Pandemic Supplies Production Act (H.R. 8943) to facilitate the adequate production and distribution of essential COVID-19 supplies. According to a press release, the bill would:
• Assess the needs and capacity of the domestic manufacturing base.
• Facilitate production of ventilators, masks, medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), therapeutics, and vaccines through the Defense Production Act.
• Require weekly reports on supply distribution and availability.
• Assign management responsibilities to the Defense Logistics Agency.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the expansion of grant access and administration relief for transit agencies during COVID-19. The FTA will extend emergency relief funding access and lengthen the regulatory requirement timeline for the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) and Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program (PTSCTP).
• Emergency Relief Program funding can now cover COVID-19 recovery expenses through January 20, 2022.
- Earth System Science Data released its annual Global Carbon Budget report, which found that global CO2 emissions will decrease by 7% in 2020 due to COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions. The widespread shift to teleworking and closure of multiple places of business resulted in reduced car traffic, yielding reduced transportation emissions. However, this reduction will not effectively combat rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
• In order to prevent a global temperature increase of 1.5°C, countries must decrease their emissions by 7% each year through 2030.
- The State of California on Friday filed a request to join the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against Google, becoming the first state led by a Democratic Attorney General to participate in the case. The judge overseeing the case, Amit Mehta, has not yet accepted the request, and has given Google one week to respond.
• California Attorney General Xaver Becerra (recently named President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services), in a statement, said: “This lawsuit paves the way for search engine innovation with greater regard for privacy and data protection.”