COVID-19 Update | Monday, July 13 (AM)
July 13, 2020
Both the House and Senate are in recess through July 20; however, House Committees continue to meet.
- Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, announced at a press conference on Monday that Beijing would sanction Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), House Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sam Brownback, President Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The spokesperson did not specify what the sanctions will entail, though some reports suggest the U.S. officials will be banned from traveling to China.
- House appropriators will continue to consider the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 government spending bills in full committee this week.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over the weekend remarked that extending the $600 weekly expanded unemployment benefits is a priority for Democrats in the next COVID-19 relief bill. She also raised funding for nutrition benefits, absentee voting programs, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards as items Democrats will be pushing for. As a reminder, though negotiations have not yet begun formally, both Democrats and Republicans have indicated what the major priorities are for each party for weeks.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that there will be no extension of the expanded unemployment benefits.
- House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf Friday expressing his concern over rising COVID-19 infections among Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees, especially among Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees. The letter argued that over 2,000 TSA and CBP employees tested positive as of July 10 and that the numbers have increased 43% and 52% for those two agencies in the last two weeks. Chairman Thompson called on Secretary Pekoske to implement policies better protecting DHS employees.
- Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, told reporters on Friday that the White House wants the second round of stimulus payments to be smaller and go to a more targeted group of taxpayers. This is consistent with Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s comments regarding another round of stimulus payments for Americans who make less than $40,000 per year.
- On Friday, President Trump said he instructed the Treasury Department to review the tax-exempt status of U.S. schools, colleges and universities.
- As a reminder, the President threatened to pull federal funding from schools that do not reopen in the fall.
- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this weekend described the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations to reopen schools this fall as common-sense measures, after President Trump had criticized the recommendations. She emphasized the importance of children returning to school and that the CDC recommendations are guidance to assist local educators in deciding how to safely reopen schools.
- President Trump said Friday that China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “severely damaged” it’s relationship with the United States, decreasing the prospects for a second trade deal with China before the presidential election in November. The President also said that China “could have stopped” the COVID-19 pandemic.
- These comments come just one month after United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee that he was very happy with China’s implementation of the phase one trade deal, but that logistical problems created by the pandemic delayed phase two negotiations.
- USTR announced $1.3B in new tariffs on various French cosmetics, soaps, and handbags late Friday. The tariffs are in response to France’s plan to place a new Digital Services Tax (DST) on large U.S. tech companies doing business in the country.
- The new 25% tariffs reportedly will not be collected immediately and are suspended for 6 months. The suspension was put in place to give France a chance to pull back its new taxes that would target Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others.
- As a reminder, USTR laid out $2.4B worth of tariffs on other French goods earlier this year, including champagne, cheese, and dinnerware.
- In addition, the public comment periods for multiple DST investigations close this week, including the investigations against Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
- Trump Administration National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and his Deputy, Matthew Pottinger, are traveling to France this week for meetings with their counterparts from France, Germany, the U.K. and Italy on issues related to China and other foreign policy. The meetings will reportedly focus on competition with China on 5G and major supply chains.
- As a reminder, the U.S. has been pushing nations within Europe to limit involvement with Chinese company Huawei when building out new 5G wireless networks, citing concerns that the company is tied to the Chinese Community Party and is therefore using the technology to spy on and disrupt critical communications and commerce.
- On Friday, the Department of Labor released a final rule streamlining the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which compensates some U.S. workers whose jobs have been outsourced to different countries. The final rule can be found here.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said Friday that he has circulated a proposal internally to conditionally approve Amazon plans to launch more than 3,200 broadband-beaming satellites, a project under Amazon’s subsidiary Kuiper.
- The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) found that “disagreements between leaders at the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department in recent months slowed the start of their flagship lending initiative for small and midsize businesses, according to current and former government officials.”
- WSJ also found that the differences centered on how to craft the loan terms of the $600B Main Street Lending Program.
- COVID-19 cases continue to rise dramatically in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other U.S. states. In Florida alone, 15,300 cases were announced Sunday. Also on Sunday, 62,918 new cases were reported across the U.S. (according to the CDC).
- A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study argued that filling middle seats on airplanes increases the likelihood of being infected with COVID-19 by a nearby passenger from 1 in 7,700, to 1 in 4,300. As a reminder, lawmakers and airlines continue to argue about requiring airlines to keep middle seats open.
- The Recovery Coalition, a “non-partisan group of businesses and associations who believe that pro-growth tax policy changes and legislation are essential to helping our economy recover, while ensuring job retention and creation to foster an economic rebirth” launches today. The coalition will push to allow businesses to accelerate general business credits, among other initiatives, and was reportedly started by the National Association of Manufacturers and other national business groups, whose names are not publicly available. More information on the coalition can be found here.
- The Retirement Security Coalition asked Congress to act now to protect Americans’ multiemployer pension plans and our economy. The crisis surrounding multiemployer pension plans has threatened the retirement savings of many. Pension reform has been discussed in the context of the next COVID-19 package. More information on the coalition, and their priorities, can be found here.
- A new report from the Center for Global Development found that the U.S.-China trade war has damaged one of the United States’ biggest exports: higher education. The report argued that the trade liberalization between China and the U.S. helped drive higher enrollment numbers by boosting China’s economic growth and providing the income for more Chinese families to send their children to the U.S. for an education. The full report can be found here.
- The report also said that the trade war with China could cost U.S. universities around 30,000 Chinese students in the next 10 years, a loss of $1.15B in tuition revenue, or 8% of educational services exports to China.
- Despite continued calls by U.S. lawmakers to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border, including those by bipartisan co-chairs of the U.S. House’s Northern Border Caucus Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), polling data released Friday by Abacus Data showed that 89% of Canadians want to see the border remain closed.
- Parler CEO John Matze told reporters on Sunday that he will be “honest and transparent” about his experiences in the tech space and how difficult his experiences have been. As a reminder, the CEO of the right-leaning Twitter-alternative social media company, which has almost 3M users, agreed to testify before House of Representatives about competition in social media last week.
- Today marks the conclusion of a years-long technology transition following a 2017 FCC auction when TV broadcasters sold off some of their airwaves to companies seeking to offer wireless broadband service.
- Following the sale, hundreds of TV stations had to migrate off those airwaves, a costly and long effort known as the “TV repacking process.” No station can operate its pre-auction channel after today.
- Wyoming and Washington state are now a part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM). With the addition of these two states, NTIA has officially reached a 20-state milestone.
- The NBAM is a geographic information system platform which allows for the visualization and analysis of federal, state, and commercially available data sets.
- The full platform provides users, including administrators from the 20 participating states, with access to the NBAM and its data to better inform broadband projects and funding decisions in their states.