COVID-19 UPDATE | THURSDAY, DEC. 3
December 3, 2020
– Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, previously considered to be the frontrunner for President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, removed herself from consideration for the position.
· New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is also considered to be a contender for the position after turning down an offer from the transition team to be Secretary of the Interior.
· Find Elevate Government Affairs’ latest updates on rumored and confirmed Cabinet nominations in our Transition Hub.
– Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced three members of her senior staff today:
· Hartina Flournoy to be Chief of Staff. Flournoy is currently former President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff.
· Rohini Kosoglu to be Domestic Policy Adviser. Kosoglu is Harris’ senior adviser on the transition team and was previously the Chief of Staff for her Senate office and presidential campaign.
· Nancy McEldowney to be National Security Adviser. McEldowney has served in multiple foreign service capacities and was Ambassador to Bulgaria under President George W. Bush.
– It is reported that David Cohen is the top contender to be President-elect Biden’s Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Cohen was previously Deputy Director of the CIA from 2015-2017 and Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing for the Department of the Treasury.
– President-elect Biden announced key members of his Administration’s COVID-19 response team:
· Jeffrey Zients will be the White House’s COVID-19 Coordinator. Zients is a co-chair of the transition team and previously served as Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) and Economic Advisor to Former President Barack Obama.
· Vivek Murthy will be Surgeon General. Murthy was also Surgeon General under former President Barack Obama.
· Marcella Nunez-Smith will have a role focused on health inequalities. Nunez-Smith is currently a co-chair of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board and a Professor of Medicine at Yale University.
· Biden has also asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to be a part of his COVID-19 response team and Chief Medical Advisor.
– President Trump denied requests from states for full federal funding towards COVID-19 relief efforts, requiring most states to continue paying 25% of costs.
· However, the White House approved nearly every state’s request to extend federal funding for the National Guard’s COVID-19 related relief work.
– The U.S. government has purchased an additional 650,000 doses of the COVID-19 antibody drug bamlanivimab developed by Eli Lilly for $813M, bringing the total doses purchased to 950,000. These doses will be distributed to state health departments and are authorized for patients with mild to moderate cases and an increased risk of hospitalization.
– California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that regions of the state will receive a three-week stay-at-home order when their available intensive care units capacity falls below 15%. No regions of California currently meet that threshold, but they could as soon as this week.
· It is predicted that all five of the state’s regions will face a stay-at-home order sometime this month.
– A deal was reached between House and Senate negotiators on a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday and the conference report has been released. The $749B package will likely receive a vote as soon as next week. The final conference report can be found here.
· The finalized bill does include a provision to rename military bases honoring Confederate leaders over a three-year period, which President Trump has threatened to veto the package over. President Trump’s requested complete repeal of Section 230 liability protection is not included in the bill.
– The Senate yesterday agreed to proceed to conference on the NDAA by unanimous consent (H.R. 6395).
· The Senate conferees were also named and include Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), David Perdue (R-GA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Thune (R-SD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Doug Jones (D-AL).
– Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moved to set a floor vote on Nathan Simington’s nomination to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which will likely take place next week. Simington would serve at the FCC for a five-year term, beginning the Biden Administration with 2-2 deadlock and possibly requiring several months to appoint a third Democrat.
· Simington’s nomination will only require a simple majority on the Senate floor.
– The Senate Judiciary Committee held an executive business meeting today to consider five judicial nominees and the Online Content Policy Modernization Act (S. 4632). Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that the nominations and the legislation would be held over until further notice.
· As a reminder, the Online Content Policy Modernization Act would narrow Section 230 liability protections for tech companies and reform copyright dispute resolution. This is the second time the bill has been scheduled for markup and postponed.
– Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Encouraging Masks for All Act (S. 4948) to incentivize states to implement mask mandates for public spaces and require masks on federal property.
· According to a press release, the bill would add $5B to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for states with mask requirements and $75M in grants to promote mask wearing.
– Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Mobilize America to Manufacture Equipment Required for Independence from Communist Adversaries Act (Mobilize AMERICA Act) (S. 4952) to incentivize the production of medical supplies in the U.S.
· According to a press release, the bill aims to decrease U.S. dependence on medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and pharmaceuticals from China.
– The House party caucuses voted on their respective Steering Committee recommendations for Committee leadership positions today. Candidates must receive the vote of their Caucus to fill the position.
· Democrats elected Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to be Chair of the Appropriations Committee in a 148-79 vote, over Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).
· Republicans announced:
– Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) to remain Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
– Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) to remain Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee.
– Rep. James Comer (R-KY) to be Ranking Member of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
– Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) to remain Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee.
– House Democrats also chose Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), over Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA).
– The House continues to consider 23 bills under suspension of the rules today, including the MORE Act (H.R. 3884) to decriminalize marijuana and erase marijuana-related criminal records.
– Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) encouraged President-elect Biden to consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), eliminate tariffs on European steel and aluminum, and review tariffs on China.
· Rep. Murphy cited the tariffs’ lack of impact on Chinese behavior and damage to American businesses
– Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) introduced the Brian McDaniel Helicopter Safety Act (H.R. 8829) to enhance helicopter safety regulations for commercial tour operators.
· According to a press release, the bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create and enforce stricter safety standards, as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
– Rep. James Comer (R-KY) introduced a bill (H.R. 8832) to facilitate interstate commerce by hindering insubstantial COVID-19 lawsuits, while providing complete relief to individuals and businesses that have faced real damage.
– Amtrak agreed to settle a complaint from the Department of Justice (DOJ) over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Amtrak will provide a $2.25M fund to compensate passengers with mobility impairments that used one of Amtrak’s 78 stations with accessibility issues.
· Amtrak also committed to constructing at least 135 new accessible stations in the next ten years.
– The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a withhold release order that aims to block cotton imports from Xinjiang, the Chinese autonomous region where Uyghur Muslims are being interned and used for forced labor. The order specifically targets the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps., which manages farms, factories, and internment camps in Xinjiang.
· Under the order, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can reject or destroy cotton imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
– Census data on Congressional apportionments, which determines the distribution of House seats per state for the next ten years, is delayed. The data may not be available until January 23, after President-elect Biden takes office.
· The delay could hinder President Trump’s effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts.
– FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced his support for Nathan Simington’s nomination.
– New guidelines have been issued by the Trump administration to limit travel to the U.S. by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their immediate family members.
· Maximum duration for travel visas will be limited to 30 days, meaning party members and their immediate family must use the visa to enter the U.S. within one month of the date of issue.
· However, U.S. border officials at point of entry will determine how long the individual may stay and could still permit multi-month visas.
– The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) revised its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions that discuss Emergency Relief funding, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, civil rights, and administrative relief.
– The Alliance for Automotive Innovation released a policy roadmap with recommendations on how the Biden Administration should deploy automated vehicles (AVs). Specifically, recommendations included:
· The Department of Transportation (DOT) should create a new AV class in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and begin a national AV pilot program.
· Congress should retain the same roles for state and federal governments as under traditional auto regulation and create unified framework for states of AV and traffic policies.
– The window for continued negotiations on a post-Brexit trade agreement between the United Kingdom (U.K.) and European Union (E.U.) is quickly closing, according to the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the U.K. Michel Barnier. The E.U. may need to develop contingency plans if the agreement if not finalized soon and provide sufficient time for E.U. member states to review the deal.
– The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its energy efficiency report for 2020, which found that COVID-19 has slowed global energy efficiency progress. Due to COVID-19 and low energy prices, energy efficiency will only improve by 0.8% in 2020, as compared to 1.6% in 2019 and 1.5% in 2018.
· COVID-19 also led to a decrease in new car sales and investment in energy efficient buildings, equipment, and vehicles.
– The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions led a group of 40 U.S. companies in a letter to the Biden Administration and Congress urging “ambitious, durable, bipartisan” climate change policies. The letter also prioritized the needs of marginalized communities, low-income households, and workers negatively impacted by the energy transition.
· The letter was signed by companies including Bank of America, Cargill, General Motors, Microsoft, PG&E Corporation, Shell Total and Walmart.
– The court hearing between the Trump Administration and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has been set for December 14. The Administration is aiming to overturn a lower court decision that blocked the Executive Order banning TikTok from U.S. app stores. – The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that ride-hailing apps that connect passengers and taxi drivers are defined as online platforms, not taxi companies, as the service does not provide an integral part of taxi transportation