COVID-19 UPDATE | MONDAY, JUNE 15 (AM)
June 15, 2020
- The Senate will continue to consider H.R. 1957, the Great American Outdoors Act, today and expects to pass the legislation and send it to the House this week.
- Procedural votes on the legislation, including waiving a budget point of order, passing the substitute amendment that contains the actual legislative language, and then invoking cloture on the entire bill, are set for 5:30pm this evening.
- Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on aircraft certification, a new draft of the “Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act,” legislation being drafted by Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), became public on Friday. The updated draft would make more significant changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) process. The changes to the legislation came about after negotiations following increased advocacy efforts by the families of those who died in the two 737 MAX crashes. Some of the changes include:
- The FAA would be required to sign off on new members of a company’s ODA unit;
- A requirement that FAA engineers and inspectors act as advisers for private employees with compliance responsibilities;
- Prohibiting companies to limit consultation with the FAA;
- Removing FAA’s authority to issue “design and production organization certificates”;
- Prohibiting the FAA from rewarding certification employees for meeting schedules or quotas;
- Requiring the FAA to institute an anonymous safety concerns process and prohibiting manufacturers from retaliating against whistleblowers; and
- Requiring the FAA to establish an automation and human factors “Center of Excellence” and an “Office of Continuing Education” for engineers and inspectors.
- Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) announced in an interview this weekend that Senate Republican police reform legislation would be released on Wednesday. Though there is opposition on the use of chokeholds from Republicans, including Sen. Lankford, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and even President Trump, the Senate bill may not include a Federal ban on the tactic.
- Sen. Scott also laid out the three major tracks of the Senate bill, namely that localities must provide information to the Department of Justice in situations where there is serious bodily harm, reforming training and tactics and a focus on officer misconduct.
- The Senate bill will not, however, decrease or end qualified immunity, a center piece of House Democrats’ legislation that Sen. Scott views as a “red line” issue.
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is preparing legislation aimed at reforming protections for social media companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The newest proposal would require platforms to stop selling targeted advertising in order to retain Section 230 protections.
- A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced H.R. 1710, legislation aimed at Chinese jet bridge manufacturer CIMC-Tianda. CIMC-Tianda is making a new push into the U.S. market. The company had been found guilty of intellectual property theft by a Houston District Court in 1998. The legislation would require the FAA to bar state-owned enterprises from using government funds if they had previously been found guilty of misappropriating intellectual property.
- The legislation is another example of actions against Chinese state-owned enterprises seeking to compete in the U.S. market.
- Reps. Ron Wright (R-TX) and Mark Veasey (D-TX) have introduced companion legislation in the House.
- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sees the next COVID-19 relief package as aimed more at recovery than relief. Specifically, Sen. Murkowski is focused on the recovery of the clean energy sector, according to a recent interview, which has seen 600,000 jobs lost due to the pandemic.
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Armed Service Committee leadership struck a deal on Friday to include their Spectrum IT Modernization Act, S. 3717, in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
- The bill would require the Commerce Department to develop a plan to better manage federal airwaves, which many wireless companies support turning over to them.
- The Armed Services panel marked up the bill late last week.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will host a hearing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the energy sector. The hearing will feature testimony from:
- Mr. Stephen Nalley, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Energy Information Administration
- Mr. David Turk, Acting Deputy Executive Director, International Energy Agency
- Ms. Lisa Jacobson, President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy
- Mr. Frank J. Macchiarola, Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs, American Petroleum Institute
- Ms. Jackie Roberts, President, National Association of State Utility Advocates
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up their surface transportation reauthorization, H.R. 2 – The INVEST in America Act, on Wednesday at 10:00am. Amendments are already being filed on the Committee’s website, and can be found here.
- As we reported Friday, some changes have been made to the text in consultation with Republicans, including new provisions on toll credits and the numbering of highway interchanges.
- However, those changes do not address all issues raised by Republicans, who were not consulted in the initial drafting of the legislation.
- The House Judiciary Committee will mark up H.R. 7120, The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, on Wednesday. This legislation is House Democrats’ proposal on police reform.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the energy sector. The hearing will feature testimony from:
- The Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, President and Chief Executive Officer, Energy Futures Initiative and Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
- Gregory Wetstone, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Council on Renewable Energy
- Rich Powell, Executive Director, ClearPath
- Multiple large tech companies have reportedly been given a Sunday deadline to determine if their CEOs will be available for a House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing related to its investigation into the tech sector. As of late yesterday, none of the companies that were invited had responded.
- Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is preparing a broad moratorium on facial recognition that would apply to both police and commercial use. Rep. Jayapal said the recent protests have again renewed conversations around how facial recognition contributes to racial profiling by police officers.
- Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) is also working on legislation related to facial recognition that would restrict its use by local and state law enforcement.
- White House trade adviser Peter Navarro signaled on Saturday that President Trump may be looking at a topline of $2T for the next COVID-19 relief package. This number would be twice what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had previously suggested as the maximum. Navarro also once again doubled down on the White House’s desire for a payroll tax cut and indicated that the President is hoping for a focus on returning manufacturing to the United States.
- White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow reiterated on Sunday that the Administration does not support an extension of the additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit, that expires at the end of July. He also mentioned that the Administration is working to craft a separate benefit that would be tied to an incentive to return to work.
- In response to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) move to formally define part of its consumer protection authority, consumer advocates and some Democratic lawmakers raised concern, saying that formalizing the definitions will limit the agency’s ability to respond.
- As a reminder, the proposed rule would codify what DOT considers to be “unfair and deceptive practices”, with the intent of aligning the definitions used by DOT with those that are used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- In addition to criticisms by Democratic lawmakers, two Democratic FTC Commissioners also criticized the proposal.
- The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s (EXIM) board of directors voted Friday to give Congress 35 days’ notice of two potential transactions, both involving commercial aircraft.
- The notification is required for deals that exceed $100M in value or that involve the export of nuclear energy equipment to give lawmakers a chance to weigh in before the board votes whether to approve the deals.
- Small oil refiners have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant them economic hardship status going back to 2013. The petition would pave the way for the EPA to exempt small refiners from 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard requirements.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is holding the first of three sessions this week on autonomous vehicle (AV) testing.
- According to DOT, the aim of the series is to “raise awareness” and “facilitate greater public understanding” around AV testing. DOT is also working on a new web platform that will give the public more information about where and how testing is happening
- Several major AV developers are expected to participate in the conversations throughout the week, but today’s participants will be Secretary Elaine Chao, along with NHTSA chief James Owens, Federal Highway Administration Administrator (FHWA) Nicole Nason and Finch Fulton, DOT’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for transportation policy.
- The U.S. and the United Kingdom (U.K.) will start round two of trade talks today as they work to sign a deal before the November election in the U.S. However, trade experts said it is likely that only a partial deal could be reached by November given the number of major issues being discussed.
- Federal Register Notices:
- The Department of Education issued a notice of waivers granted under Section 3511 of the CARES Act. The notice can be found here.
- FAA issued a notice and request for comment on automatic dependent surveillance broadcast-out performance requirements to support Air Traffic Control Service. The notice can be found here.
- The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation issued a final rule on the allocation of assets in single-employer plans and benefits payable in terminated single-employer plans. The notice can be found here.
- COVID-19 cases continued to rise across the U.S. this weekend including in Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington state. Overall, nearly 800 Americans are still dying daily from the virus.
- The employee retention tax credit that was created to provide additional COVID-19 relief for businesses is barely being used. One payroll processing company indicated that less than 1% of its 600,000 clients have used the tax credit.
- As a reminder, the tax credit is 50% against up to $10,000 in wages paid to each employee. The credit is refundable meaning if it exceeds the business’ payroll tax burden, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pays the business the difference.
- The Supreme Court is set to rule on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama-era program that shields undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from being deported, in the coming weeks. If the court rules against the program, Congress would be forced to act before the election. Some 700,000 immigrants participate in the DACA program.
- The National People’s Congress Standing Committee in China is working on drafting and passing a national security law relating to Hong Kong, which could happen by the end of this month.
- The Standing Committee is expected to cover four areas in their new law, including succession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs.
- WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and trade leaders from the 13 members of the Ottawa Group will meet virtually today to discuss the impacts of the pandemic while adapting trade rules to prepare for future crises.
- The group is led by Canada and includes Australia, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.
- Pittsburgh-based online retailer Online Stores filed a complaint with the FTC related to Google’s refusal to allow online advertising for face masks, citing that the refusal is raising the price for consumers and harming competition. The company also cited that Google’s ban violated the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct.
As a reminder, in early March, Google instituted a blanket ban on all ads for medical face masks “out of an abundance of caution” to prevent price-gouging and scams seeking to profit off the current pandemic.