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COVID-19 Update | Thursday, July 30

July 30, 2020


The House and Senate are both back in session.

COVID-19 Relief Negotiations

  • The House was originally scheduled to depart Washington, D.C. for the August recess tomorrow. However, House Leadership has informed Members that they should plan to remain in Washington, D.C. next week to vote on a potential COVID-19 relief package.
  • Negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief package continue to progress minimally as expanded unemployment insurance is set to expire on Friday which would mean over 30M Americans would see an income decrease of 50-75%.
    • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appear to be the lead negotiators on the Republican side as of now as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to face disunity among Senate Republicans.
      • Mnuchin and President Trump commented yesterday that there is a chance a short-term unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium extension is passed, but we continue to believe that Congressional Democrats will not support a short-term solution.
      • Majority Leader McConnell set up a cloture vote on a shell vehicle for an extension of reduced unemployment insurance benefits and a moratorium on evictions for Monday afternoon.
    • This opposition mostly stems from the fact that a short-term extension could provide cover to leave Washington, D.C. for the August recess without addressing a broader package, including Democratic priorities such as additional relief to state and local governments.
      • Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) attempted to offer a 7-day extension of unemployment benefits under unanimous consent on the Senate Floor which was objected to by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
    • Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) each proposed solutions for continued expanded unemployment insurance to potentially advance negotiations.
      • Sen. Johnson’s proposal would renew unemployment insurance at 66% of lost wages, or $200 per week. The idea has gained traction with the White House, but Congressional Democrats have already rejected it.
      • According to reports, Sen. Romney’s plan would allow states to choose between an 80% wage replacement or decreasing weekly benefits from $500 per week in August to $400 per week in September and $300 per week in October.


  • Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) announced that they will introduce legislation that would permanently write into law the expensing provisions in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to allow for neutral cost recovery for structures and allow for companies to immediately deduct research costs.
  • Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, legislation to achieve health equity and climate justice for all Americans, especially in underserved communities and communities of color. A press release on the legislation can be found here. A one-pager on the bill can be found here. Bill text can be found here.
    • This is companion legislation to a bill introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA).
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee cancelled the confirmation hearing for Anthony Tata to be Undersecretary of Defense for Policy less than 30 minutes before the hearing was supposed to begin. Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said the hearing was cancelled due to the required documentation not being submitted in time.
    • As a reminder, Tata has been criticized for past comments about former President Barack Obama.
  • The Senate voted to confirm Derek Kan to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a 71-21 vote.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Security held a hearing titled “The China Challenge: Realignment of U.S. Economic Policies to Build Resiliency and Competitiveness.” The hearing focused on ways to respond to China’s rising international economic footprint.


  • The House began consideration of H.R. 7617, the second appropriations minibus which includes Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations. The 340 amendments that were made in order were grouped into five en bloc and ten individual amendments. Final passage is expected tomorrow. The White House has threatened to veto the minibus if passed in its current form.
  • Over 160 bipartisan Representatives, led by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), sent a letter to United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer asking for food and drink products to be dropped from the retaliations against the European Union over continued support and aid to Airbus. The letter cited additional concerns about the effect of increasing food and drink prices on small businesses.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Members will be required to wear masks and face coverings on the House floor and in House office buildings. Previously, masks were encouraged on the floor and required in committee meetings. However, it is unclear if and how Members who do not comply with the mandate will be punished.
    • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) renewed his call to implement rapid testing in the Capitol. The Trump Administration has offered to provide tests to the Capitol. However, Pelosi said that there is not enough equipment to test everyone that needs to be tested.
    • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested that Members of Congress should be tested for the virus after flying in from their districts, especially when they live in COVID-19 hotspots.
  • Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law held a hearing titled “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.” The witnesses were:
    • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
    • Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
    • Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet
    • Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon


  • According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 9.5% in the second quarter, which translates to a 32.9% annualized reduction. This contraction is a clear indication that economic recovery will be delayed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout the U.S.
  • The Department of Labor said that claims for jobless benefits rose to 1.4M last week. Despite the fact that filings for unemployment had slowed in recent weeks due to states reversing their reopening plans, unemployment claims have recently started to rise again. 
  • The President floated the possibility of postponing the November election due to concerns about voting and COVID-19. There is not a legal avenue for the President to postpone the election and only an act of Congress can do so.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), along with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) compiled a list of resources and products to help the transit industry respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that would give utilities until April 11, 2021 to close or retrofit coal ash impoundments. The new deadline is almost two years later than the original 2019 deadline imposed by the Obama-era rule. 
  • The Department of Labor’s (DOL) rule on sustainable investments has been the subject of criticism due to concerns that the rule would expose investors, mainly retirees, to failing businesses as the climate change crisis worsens. The rule would ban pension fund managers from allowing environmental, social and governance factors to influence decisions in investment for employee retirement funds.
    • 21 House Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee, led by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), sent a letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia criticizing the rule.
  • The U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimously to impose tariffs on wind energy towers from South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Canada.
  • The State Department announced that it has flown in more than 100,000 Americans who were stranded across 150 countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This cost the State Department $196M, but the money will be paid back by the individuals. The State Department said it’s bound by statute to get reimbursement for these repatriation flights.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) will recoup $200M from a shuttered solar power plant in Nevada that received a $737M loan guarantee after ACS Cobra, who was building the plant, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The plant was funded under the same program that funded the failed Solyndra company and other renewable energy projects.
  • Federal Register Notices:
    • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that OMB has approved, for a period of three years, an information collection associated with the rules for the Connect America Fund contained in the Commission’s Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund Order, FCC 19-95. The notice can be found here.
    • USTR announced an extension of certain provisions from 2018 which imposed additional duties on goods of China with an annual trade value of approximately $16B as part of the action in the Section 301 investigation of China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. The extension expires on December 31, 2020. The notice can be found here.

Other News 

  • Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi estimates that decreasing unemployment benefits from $600 per week to $200 per week would cost close to 1M jobs and could increase unemployment by 0.6% and an analysis from the JPMorgan Chase Institute indicated that expanded unemployment benefits led to a 10% increase in consumption among unemployed Americans when they were first introduced.
  • A coalition of American and European business groups including the Information Technology Industry Council, ACT: The App Association and the Computer & Communications Industry Association sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, European Union Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and European Data Protection Chair Andrea Jelinek asking for a new privacy agreement to be negotiated after the “Privacy Shield” pact was invalidated by a European Union court.
  • The Canadian government announced that beginning on July 31, Americans who are travelling to Alaska through Canada for non-discretionary purposes may only cross into Canada at one of five ports of entry between British Columbia and Saskatchewan and must take the most direct route available, while avoiding any sort of tourist destination. U.S. travelers must report to a Canada Border Services Agency station to confirm their exit from Canada before entering the U.S. Similar requirements will also apply to U.S. travelers going from Alaska to the Lower 48 through Canada, except there will not be limited ports of entry. These measures have been introduced due to the surge of COVID-19 in America.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 single dose vaccine performed well in initial testing stages. The vaccine will now be tested on a broad group of people in Belgium and the U.S.
  • Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that District of Columbia public schools will be virtual until at least November 6.
  • The Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Coalition sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). In the letter, the Small UAV Coalition asked for DOT to create a report on the program, allow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) representatives to stay on as advisers to participants and to extend the regulatory waivers that were present to participants in the program.
  • The Bank Policy Institute, the Center for Responsible Lending and the Independent Community Bankers of America sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees urging that Congress include in the next COVID-19 relief package provisions that would stop technology firms from expanding their financial services offerings.
  • A coalition of environmental groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, sued the White House Council on Environmental Quality because of changes made to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
    • As a reminder, the White House finalized a rule which would ease environmental permitting requirements for big infrastructure projects and would reduce the timelines for environmental reviews.
    • Additionally, Earthjustice filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s NEPA ruling on behalf of another coalition of environmental groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity and Environment America. The suit can be found here.
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