COVID-19 Update | Thursday, May 7
May 7, 2020
- COVID-19 Relief Package Information
- House Speaker Pelosi may unveil the lower chamber’s next COVID-19 package as early as tomorrow with a goal to vote on it on May 14th. We continue to hear that House Democrats will be pushing for more funding for state and local governments, in addition to supplemental insurance, hazard pay, more funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and an extension of unemployment insurance, which Speaker Pelosi announced today.
- House Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez indicated House Democrats are considering a variety of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to increase funding, create new carve-outs in the PPP that would set aside funding for businesses with 25 or fewer employees and for nonprofits of any type or size, and extend the term of the loan to sixteen weeks rather than eight.
- Senate Republicans continue to embrace a “wait and see” approach.
- Our intelligence suggests that House Appropriators have been instructed to be prepared to move their legislation in June to enable the Chamber to dispense the legislation off the House floor by August. The Senate continues to aim for the July 4th recess as their target date to pass bills out of the full committee.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced a new Republican China task force to develop legislation aimed at the Chinese government’s influence operations, economic threats, efforts to gain technology, and its role in the origin and spread of the coronavirus.
- Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) will chair the task force. Other members include Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Anthony Gonzales (R-OH), Darrin LaHood (R-IL), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Curtis (R-UT), Andy Barr (R-KY), John Joyce (R-PA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Jim Banks (R-IN), Michael Waltz (R-FL) and Chris Stewart (R-UT).
- Minority Leader McCarthy has also named Republican members to the COVID-19 Oversight Committee, chaired by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC). House Republicans previously opposed the creation and participation of the committee fearing its purpose was to obtain negative information on the President.
- The Republican members are Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Mark Green (R-TN).
- House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) stated today that the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to be considered by the Committee soon, may include new restrictions on the Pentagon’s authority to shift money within its budget after President Trump shifted another $3.8B from weapons programs toward a border wall.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has expressed hesitancy to testifying before the House Judiciary Antitrust Committee after requests for testimony on the use of data collected from the company’s own third-party sellers to launch competing products. Committee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) indicated that Apple, Google, and Facebook are likely to offer testimony voluntarily and that he will seek to subpoena Jeff Bezos if he does not agree to testify voluntarily.
- As reported in our update last night, a measure introduced in the House yesterday by Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) would enable 501(c)(6) organizations to be eligible for the PPP. The bill covers 501(c)(6) organizations with less than 300 employees and excludes loan funds being used to cover the compensation of an employee who is a registered lobbyist. Rep. Pappas’ office is garnering support from industry here.
- Majority Leader McConnell issued a press release today. The full release can be found here.
- Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to President Trump requesting that he suspend “all new guest worker visas for sixty days and suspend certain categories of new guest worker visas for at least the next year, or until unemployment has returned to normal levels.”
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and other Senate Republicans introduced legislation to set new standards for how companies collect and use consumer data to track the spread of the coronavirus. The bill has no Democratic cosponsors. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) are original cosponsors.
- The Senate today failed to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution to limit his war powers against Iran, which completed the first week of session after more than a month. The vote was 49-44 and short of the two thirds required for an override.
- Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) urged Leader McConnell to reconsider his decision to reject the Administration’s offer to provide Congress with rapid testing. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has expressed a similar sentiment.
- Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) asked Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) to investigate Carnival Corporation’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks on its ships. More information can be found here. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has already initiated an investigation.
- Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS), wrote a letter to President Trump warning that new export control rules aimed at China could have adverse impacts on the U.S.
- A bipartisan group of Senators today introduced legislation that would provide greater flexibility for state and local governments to use the $150B included in the CARES Act. Specifically, the legislation would allow states and local governments to use funds for state revenue shortfalls. The legislation, titled the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act, was introduced by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and was introduced in response to Treasury guidance from last month that revenue replacement was not a permissible use for CARES Act funds.
- The Senate will meet next at 3:00PM Monday and to resume consideration of Brian D. Montgomery to be Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A vote on limiting the debate time on this nomination is planned for 5:30PM Monday.
- President Trump said he will determine by next week whether he is satisfied with China’s progress toward buying an additional $76.7B worth of U.S. goods and services this year as part of the phase one trade deal.
- The Justice Department moved Thursday to drop its prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pled guilty in the Mueller investigation in 2017 to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents about his conversations with the former Russian Ambassador.
- Today, the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Labor Department announced a plan to implement Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses to swiftly recover the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave. More information can be found here.
- Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is now accepting applications from eligible grantees for CARES Act supplemental funds (EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance) intended to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. The full press release that was issued today can be found here and an overview of the program can be found here.
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske announced that U.S. airport security officers will be required to wear masks in screening areas.
- Additionally, TSA is considering requiring passengers traveling through airport checkpoints wear masks or face coverings.
- Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said in an interview yesterday that he is pushing for TSA to begin temperature scans as part of the screening process at airport checkpoints.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Townhall scheduled for today regarding aviation safety standards was postponed to a future unannounced date.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued guidance to help transit agencies and transit vehicle manufacturers understand and comply with the prohibitions on FTA-funded rolling stock procurements contained in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
- Federal Register Notices
- The Department of Labor announced a renewal of the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy. The current charter was set to expire this month. The notice can be found here.
- 3.2M additional Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to 33.5M Americans since COVID-19 shutdowns began.
- As we reported yesterday, support for a federal mandate on health measures for air travel is growing both in the industry and within the Federal government. Witnesses at yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, including representatives from airlines, airports, and aerospace manufacturers, indicated mixed support for a federal mandate on health measures in air travel. Neither the FAA, nor TSA have issued any official guidelines.
- Three cruise lines, all under the Carnival Corporation umbrella, announced Wednesday they are canceling sailings to Alaska this summer, citing travel and other restrictions linked to coronavirus concerns.
- Two of the companies, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, had previously announced sharply reduced plans for voyages to and tours in Alaska. The third, Seabourn, said it is suspending through Oct. 13 sailings to Alaska.
- The cancellation of these cruises will severely impact Alaskan tourism companies and related businesses who rely on income from cruise passengers.
- Former Centers for Disease Control (CDC) directors Tom Frieden, who testified before the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher and William Foege, in addition to former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, Bill Frist and others, sent a letter to Congressional leadership in support of the Health Operations Defense fund this week. The fund, which found bipartisan support during Wednesday’s hearing, would be outside budget limitations.
- Food and consumer product companies wrote a letter to Vice President Pence asking for more guidance on steps to ensure a safe reopening of the industry, including questions about testing, positive cases, and plant shutdowns.
- Amtrak said in a statement that the passenger rail company will begin requiring customers to wear facial coverings starting May 11.
- Trucking companies that haul goods between Mexico and the US are being forced to haul high demand products like food and medical supplies in lieu of manufactured goods, often at lower prices, to keep afloat during the pandemic. Dozens of trucking companies have already been forced to shut down due to a lack of volume.
- A coalition of online retailers backed by Amazon began a seven-figure advertising campaign on Wednesday opposing President Trump’s demand that the United States Postal Service ratchet up its package delivery rates to avoid bankruptcy amid the coronavirus crisis.