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COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, July 21

July 21, 2020


The House and Senate are both back in session.

General Congress

  • Negotiations among Republicans continue on the next COVID-19 stimulus package. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attended the Senate Republican policy lunch today. 
  • Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows also separately met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
    • Elevate expects policy details of the Republican proposal to continue to emerge and some version of the proposal, either legislative text or policy principles, to be released later this week.
    • We still have no clear indication that further industry specific aid will be included in the initial Republican proposal. However, many sectors, including airlines, airports, public transit, restaurants and other industries are pushing for COVID-19 relief.
    • President Trump’s proposed payroll tax cut has received largely no support from either side of the aisle. To date, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), as well as Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), spoke out against the proposal.
    • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that Republicans will include $105B in their draft of the bill to help schools safely reopen in the fall.
      • This figure is more than the $58B that the Democrats authorized in the House-passed HEROES Act (H.R. 6800).
      • Policy proposals relating to schools reopening are expected to be a significant issue. Democrats have said that they will not agree to any package that ties funding for education to in-person instruction, amid growing concerns about the safety of teachers and students.


  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act to permanently fund Amtrak. The legislation would create a dedicated trust fund to help Amtrak invest in improvement projects, provide more reliable service and increase passenger rail efficiency. A press release on the legislation can be found here.
    • Amtrak has endorsed the legislation and said it would be a “game changer.”
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet plans to host a hearing on “The PACT Act and Section 230: The Impact of the Law that Helped Create the Internet and an Examination of Proposed Reforms for Today’s Online World” on July 28. The hearing will examine Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act which protects social media companies that has been criticized by Congressional Republicans and President Trump recently. The witnesses at the hearing will include:
    • The Honorable Christopher Cox, Counsel, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; Director, NetChoice
    • Mr. Jeff Kosseff, Assistant Professor, Cyber Science Department, United States Naval Academy
    • Mr. Olivier Sylvain, Professor of Law, Fordham University
    • Ms. Elizabeth Banker, Deputy General Counsel, Internet Association
  • The Senate Budget Committee reported the nomination of Derek Kan favorably to be the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a 15-6 vote. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) voted with the Republicans to pass the nomination. As a reminder, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider the nomination tomorrow.
  • The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of S. 4049, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) this week. The Senate voted on four of six amendments made in order under an agreement reached before the July 4 recess. The four amendments and their vote results were as follows:
    • An amendment from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that would prohibit the transfer of surplus offensive military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. The amendment was not agreed to in a 51 to 49 vote.
    • An amendment from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) that would require de-escalation training for law enforcement agencies that receive excess military equipment. The amendment was agreed to in a 90 to 10 vote.
    • An amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would increase funding for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals in drinking water. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.
    • An amendment from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on semiconductor manufacturing incentives. The amendment was agreed to in a 96-4 vote.


  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (D-WA) sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson requesting to see the data from the 2019 culture survey of employees from the Office of Aviation Safety. Reps. DeFazio and Larsen requested the data by August 3. The safety office has been the subject of harsh scrutiny due to the crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX.
  • House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) said he wants Democrats to delay a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, H.R. 1957, which is expected to pass on Wednesday, arguing it is unwise to move forward with an unstable revenue source.
    • The bill would permanently provide $900M in annual funds from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to pay for projects on public lands.
    • As a reminder, the Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support last month.
  • The House passed H.R. 6396, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry NDAA for Fiscal Year 2021, in a 295 to 125 vote, after considering more than 400 amendments yesterday.
    • The amendments were largely grouped into two en bloc amendment packages, one containing approximately 150 amendments (passed 336-71) and the other containing approximately 240 amendments (passed by voice vote).
      • The first en bloc amendment package included an amendment from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) which would ban the use of TikTok on federal devices. It also included Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s (D-NJ) amendment requiring the Department of Defense to issue a report to Congress on social media use by terrorists and online radicalization.
    • President Donald Trump once again threatened to veto the NDAA if policy provisions to rename military bases with Confederate names, which are currently in the House NDAA, are in the final version.
  • The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow to prepare the first House appropriations package for floor consideration later this week. The first package, H.R. 7608, includes State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-Food and Drug Administration, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The minibus carries a price tag of $259.5B. Currently, over 200 amendments have been filed to the first minibus. All filed amendments can be found here.
    • As a reminder, House Democrats also announced their second minibus for consideration next week which will include Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. The minibus has been assigned bill number H.R. 7617 and carries a price tag of $1.4T. More information can be found here.
    • Legislative Branch appropriations have not been included in either package.


  • Department of Justice prosecutors charged two Chinese men with hacking hundreds of U.S. and foreign companies, nongovernmental organizations and human rights activists, as well as trying to hack three U.S. firms researching COVID-19. According to the charges, the two men have been stealing trade secrets from companies across the world, including the U.S., since 2009. According to the prosecutors, the men at times acted out of self-interest, but also worked with and were assisted by China’s Ministry of State Security.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he believes all nations should “push back” against China during a visit to the United Kingdom. Secretary Pompeo pushed his anti-China stances while holding a press conference with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who also said he had plans to counter China and had concerns about the new security laws in China.
  • The FAA announced plans to issue airworthiness directives for the Boeing 737 MAX. The FAA will allow a 45-day comment period on the directives, which include proposed design changes to the MAX and new flight crew procedures to help address the recent crashes. A press release can be found here.
  • The Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded in a report released Monday that the Agency is not effectively implementing the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which was designed to reduce children’s exposure to lead. The report can be found here.
  • A coalition of 21 Democratic Attorneys General sued the Trump Administration over an EPA rule to limit the authority of states to use environmental concerns to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects. The lawsuit can be found here.
  • According to a study done on CDC data, the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States could be 6 to 24 times larger than official reporting. The study estimates the disease is likely 10 times more prevalent than reported. The study can be found here.
  • Andrew Smith, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection today. Smith testified on COVID-19 related scams. Director Smith’s testimony can be found here.
  • The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine are forming a committee to recommend how to fairly distribute prospective COVID-19 vaccines. The Academies were requested to undertake this initiative by the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Federal Register Notices:
    • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), within the CDC, announced the availability of the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety Strategic Plan for 2020-2029. The notice can be found here.
    • The CDC announced a second modification and extension of the No Sail Order and Other Measures Related to Operations, which was issued on April 15. This order applies to cruise ships defined as commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessels with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) and with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or a 24-hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew, that are operating in international, interstate, or intrastate waterways, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The notice can be found here
    • The CDC announced a request for information related to cruise ship planning and infrastructure, resumption of passenger operations, and additional summary questions. The notice can be found here.  
    • The Department of Energy announced it will be extending the public comment period for its Request for Information (RFI) regarding Executive Order 13920 issued May 1, 2020, titled “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System.” The notice can be found here.
    • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a public meeting, the “FMCSA 2020 Trucking Safety Summit.” The meeting will be held virtually on August 5 and will solicit information on improving the safe operation of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles on U.S. roadways. The notice can be found here.
    • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a public meeting of the National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC). The meeting will be held virtually August 18, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST and August 19, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. The notice can be found here.

Other News

  • 21 Republican Governors, led by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R), sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging action on liability reform in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. The letter can be found here.
  • Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines both announced a large amount of voluntary departures by employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Southwest announced that almost 30% of their employees have volunteered to take time off or leave entirely from the company. Additionally, Delta said that 17% of their pilots have volunteered to leave the airline.
  • Executives from six major defense contractors including BAE Systems, Boeing Defense, Lockheed Martin, Textron, General Dynamics and Raytheon Technologies, sent a letter to the President warning that maintaining their critical operations has come at a cost and their industry will face serious issues without an influx of money from the Department of Defense.
  • James Davis, who is the Executive Vice President of General Diagnostics at Quest Diagnostics, America’s largest laboratory company, said that the United States does not have the testing capacity to keep up with COVID-19 testing demand in the fall.
  • The European Union agreed to a €750B stimulus package, which is comprised of €390B in grants and €360B in loans. The stimulus package will be attached to a €1.074T seven-year budget.
  • A coalition of domestic steel and textile manufacturing groups issued a joint statement on Monday that called on Congress and the White House to ensure that U.S. producers receive a large share of any Federal contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) and create incentives for private U.S. companies to buy U.S.-made PPE.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) filed a lawsuit to enjoin William Perry Pendley, who was recently nominated to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), from continuing to exercise the authority of the Director of the BLM in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which prohibits acting directors from serving while their nomination is pending. Bullock’s lawsuit seeks to bar Pendley from performing the duties of director until the Senate has confirmed his nomination.
  • The CEOs of United Airlines, American Airlines, the Lufthansa Group, and the International Airlines Group wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson that urged the reopening of air travel between the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. The CEOs recommended a joint U.S.-EU COVID-19 testing program to help build confidence in transatlantic air travel.
    • As a reminder, the U.S. was not included in an E.U. approved list of countries that were able to begin travelling to Europe July 1.
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