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June 29, 2020


Senate Activities

  • More than a dozen Democratic Senators wrote a letter to various federal agencies tasked with fighting foreign interference and disinformation, asking them to ramp up their efforts.
    • The letter, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and written to the heads of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Cyber Command, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urged that:
      • The agencies be fully transparent about meddling efforts by foreign adversaries, including quickly communicating interference attempts and election-related disinformation activities to the American public, political candidates, members of Congress, researchers and civil society organizations.
      • National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe and Defense Secretary Mark Esper “implement a social media information sharing and analysis center (ISAC) to detect and counter information warfare campaigns across social media platforms.”
    • The full letter, which includes all requests the Senators made, can be found here.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) put a hold on Doug Benevento’s nomination as Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meaning the nomination cannot proceed until her hold is lifted. Sen. Ernst is requesting answers from EPA on how it plans to deal with 52 Renewable Fuel Standard exemption requests filed by refiners last week.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is calling on the President to reconsider his vow to release a new list of potential Supreme Court Nominees by September.

House Activities

  • The House Rules Committee will meet later today to determine which of the 367 amendments filed to H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, will be made in order for consideration on the House floor. Of the 367 amendments that were filed, 80 were Republican, 54 were bipartisan and the rest were Democratic.
    • Work is also underway to package non-controversial amendments “en bloc,” to allow for expedited consideration.
  • Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) renewed her calls for a national mask mandate. As a reminder, Speaker Pelosi has required Members of Congress to wear face coverings during committee hearings, but many Republicans have not adhered to the requirement.
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) directly implored President Trump to wear a mask in an interview on Sunday to set an example for his supporters and Americans in general. Other Republican lawmakers have similarly voiced their support for wearing masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is expected to release its recommendations for combatting climate change tomorrow. The committee’s report is expected to endorse a broad expansion of clean energy incentives, tightening climate regulations for federal agencies, and adding more emphasis on next-generation energy technologies. 


  • Over the weekend, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said that “the window is closing” to contain the spread of COVID-19. He also said that in order to contain the virus, people need to act responsibly, social distance, and wear face coverings when in settings that make it impossible to social distance.
  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will go into effect this Wednesday, July 1. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is expected to visit Washington, D.C. in early July to meet with President Trump and mark the entry into force. It is expected that President López Obrador’s will speak with the President regarding Mexico’s ongoing labor issues.
    • The Trump Administration has already made clear that it is ready to enforce the new provisions of USMCA as soon as it enters into force this Wednesday.
      • Lawmakers have also said they plan to strongly enforce the trade deal, including its labor provisions to make sure Mexico treats its workers better.
    • U.S. labor and advocacy groups are capitalizing on the implementation of the new trade agreement to call for the release of Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto, who was arrested earlier this month on what critics say are “phony charges of inciting a riot, threats, and coercion.” The groups calling for her release include the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, Public Citizen, and others.
      • Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) questioned United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer on Prieto’s case during a recent House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on Saturday to make changes to the Federal hiring process. Specifically, the EO would revise job classification and qualification standards and increase the use of assessments in the hiring process.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced to lawmakers on Friday that certification flights for the Boeing 737 MAX could begin as soon as today. The flights are a result of an FAA review of a system safety assessment from Boeing, but are just one step in the compliance process for the MAX to resume commercial flights.
  • The FAA extended pilot medical certificates that expire between April and September, allowing for pilots to add three months to their validity. This change will especially benefit general aviation pilots amid COVID-19.
    • More information can be found here.
  • The Federal Reserve has purchased $17.5M in energy bonds and $19.5M in utility bonds as of June 18. The purchases were aimed at providing businesses with COVID-19 relief through the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF). The Federal Reserve will continue buying bonds as the SMCCF authorizes up to $750M in bond purchases.
  • The Administration decided against re-imposing tariffs on imports of Canadian aluminum after urging Canada to impose quotas on its exports. Those close to the discussions said that the two sides are working on an agreement before the USMCA goes into effect this Wednesday.
  • The USA Rice Federation filed a petition in March asking for the Administration to eliminate duty-free treatment for all rice imports under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Current U.S. duties on rice from non-GSP countries range from about 1% to 11.2%, depending on the type.
  • 19,856 Americans filed complaints with the Department of Transportation (DOT) in April regarding air travel, according to the DOT air travel consumer report for June. This represents a more than tenfold increase over April 2019 when only 1,206 complaints were filed. The vast majority of the complaints were related to airline refunds after airlines canceled flights due to COVID-19.
    • Consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports is using the complaints data to push DOT to mandate refunds for passengers whose travel was affected by COVID-19.
  • According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, flights reached a record low in April, with only 194,390 flights operated. Also, more than twice the number of flights were canceled in April than after 9/11.
  • Internal Commerce Department emails show a more complicated picture of how the Trump Administration approached approving Ligado Networks’ 5G plans.
    • The Trump Administration originally contemplated a strategy for conditionally approving Ligado Networks’ 5G plans, months before denouncing the company’s proposal as a threat to national security, according to the emails. Other documents from early 2019 show that Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) had discussed what conditions to impose if regulators greenlit the Virginia satellite company’s plans. Months later, NTIA told regulators it simply could not support Ligado’s project.
  • President Trump plans to nominate William Perry Pendley as the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. The nomination, which has not been officially sent to the Senate, will face opposition from Senate Democrats who point to Pendley’s previous calls for the Federal government to sell all its land west of the Mississippi River.

Other News

  • Florida, Arizona, and Texas, who quickly reopened and had less strict social distancing and mask wearing requirements, continue to see rising new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
    • The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide officially passed 10M, with more than 500,000 deaths.
    • The U.S. recorded more than 43,000 cases this past Saturday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
  • The Trump campaign announced that they were postponing two campaign events in Arizona and Florida with Vice President Mike Pence due to COVID-19 spikes.
  • Facebook announced that it will put warning labels on posts that break its rules but that are considered newsworthy, a practice similar to that of Twitter. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new policy on Friday, marking a reversal from previous comments. The move came as more brands pledged to stop advertising on the social network until it does more to curb hate speech and harmful content.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continues to push Congress for additional COVID-19 relief. The authority argued that capital improvement projects will soon be cut if it does not receive $3B in relief from the Federal government. This sentiment is echoed by transit agencies, seaports and airports across the U.S. who may be forced to put much-needed projects on hold to cover revenue deficits as a result of COVID-19.
  • State and local Governments continue to wait and see whether or not the federal government decides to further delay federal tax deadlines, a move Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has supported in the past. The Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center found that if the federal government keeps pushing back when businesses have to pay, it may be harder for those businesses to pay all of their bills once they are due.
    • Last week, the Americans for Tax Reform wrote that pushing back the filing deadline would keep too many taxpayers from claiming refunds.
    • The National Taxpayer Advocate’s midyear report to Congress is expected to be released today. The report will contain information on how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is navigating the new challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for taxpayers.
  • China’s General Administration of Customs is now requiring foreign suppliers to guarantee that their products are free of COVID-19. Groups have already pushed back on the move, including Western Growers, who stated “the recent move by Chinese authorities to require a statement of undertaking for food importers is not based on any legitimate food safety concern” and that the “very food safety guidance referenced in the required statement — issued by the United Nations and World Health Organization — affirms that there is ‘no evidence to date’ of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging.”
  • Global political leaders and policymakers are gathering virtually today to assess how well tech companies are protecting the integrity of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
    • House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are both expected to be a part of the conversation, likely focusing on issues relating election interference, voter suppression and democratic integrity.

A new analysis from nonprofit research group First Street Foundation found that 14.6M continental U.S. homes face flood risks comparable with FEMA’s 100-year floodplain. That number is set to climb to 16.2M by 2050 according to the analysis. FEMA’s maps show only 8.7M homes as facing substantial risk. First Street Foundation’s models are built with input from the University of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and consulting firms such as Rhodium Group and IBM.

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