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COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, June 14

July 14, 2020



  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted Monday that Republicans would begin to craft their own COVID-19 relief bill next week and that they had yet to have any substantive talks with Democrats. Though Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader McConnell, and the White House have emphasized a $1T topline for the package, it is expected to increase to secure the necessary Democratic support.
    • Majority Leader McConnell indicated he has been in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who he described as the “point person” for the Administration, on an additional package and that he expects this to be the final one.
    • Majority Leader McConnell also indicated that no package would pass the Senate without liability protections for businesses and that the protections would be retroactive to December 2019 and extend through 2024.
    • Additional Republican priorities are funding the reopening of schools and incentivizing the return to work.
    • Democrats are calling for $1T in state and local funding alone and have also expressed some concerns with liability protections for employers and opposition to making school funding contingent upon reopening.
  • Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) sent a letter to Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for them to make it easier for state and local governments to use an emergency lending program created through the CARES Act. The Senators said the program is currently being “vastly underutilized.” The letter can be found here.


  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) yesterday released a Dear Colleague that stated that the House might stay in session the first week in August to finish up negotiations on a another COVID-19 relief bill. The letter can be found here.
    • The letter from Majority Leader Hoyer also laid out the plan for the remainder of the July work period including:
      • Next week the chamber will consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its first package of spending bills ahead of the September funding deadline. Also, the House will vote next week on legislation that calls for removing Confederate statues and busts of Roger Taney from the Capitol, a bill that was introduced by Hoyer and senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
      • The following week, Hoyer said the House will vote on legislation to create a National Museum of the Latino in the Smithsonian Institution, two child-care bills, a second package of spending bills, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and legislation passed by the Senate to establish a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.
      • Majority Leader Hoyer also noted that the House will work in July with the Senate on “legislation to address the impacts of COVID-19” and that they will continue “oversight work in response to the commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence and to the intelligence assessment that Russia paid bounties for the killing of U.S. service-members in Afghanistan” and work on additional Fiscal Year (FY) 21 spending bills.
  • As a reminder, the four FY 21 spending bills to be considered next week – Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Interior-Environment, State and Foreign Operations, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs – would fund the Departments of Agriculture, State, Interior and Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FDA and military construction projects.
  • Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), the House sponsor of the Great American Outdoors Act, indicated that the House may consider the Senate-passed version of H.R. 1957, as soon as next Wednesday. As a reminder, this legislation would permanently fund and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and clear much of the maintenance backlog at national parks. The Senate passed the legislation in June with bipartisan support.
  • The House Appropriations Committee continued their full committee markups of FY 2021 appropriations bills. The appropriations schedule with updated vote results can be found below.
    • The following bills will be considered by the full committee this week:
      • Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD): $158.3B
        • Markup 7/14
        • The Committee report is available here.
        • The legislation includes $2.2B for Capital Investment Grants in addition to the $15.9B in formula grants through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In addition to the regular appropriations, the legislation also includes $5B in off-budget, emergency funding for Capital Investment Grants.
        • The legislation will fund a number of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accounts from the General Fund instead of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund due to severe revenue shortfalls for the trust fund amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will also include a $37M increase for aviation safety. Some of that sum will go to Boeing 737 MAX investigation response. Some of that money will also go to a study on “pilot dependency on automation.”
        • As a reminder, the THUD appropriations bill was scheduled to be marked up today along with the Defense and Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bills. As of this writing, the markup is ongoing due to a large number of amendments and debate on other bills that were marked up today.
      • Financial Services: $24.64B
        • Markup 7/15
        • The committee report is available here.
      • Homeland Security: $50.72B
        • Markup 7/15
        • The committee report is available here.
    • The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on Promoting Economic Recovery: Examining Capital Markets and Worker Protections in the COVID-19 Era.

General Congress

  • Amazon, Spotify, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, YouTube, and other companies sent a letter on Tuesday urging lawmakers to help venues that are represented by the National Independent Venue Association. The letter was sent to Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Small Business Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH). The letter can be found here.
  • The Security Manufacturers Coalition, a group of companies that produce airport security screening equipment, is urging Congress to provide billions of dollars to invest in technology that would limit interactions between travelers and screeners.
    • This comes at a time when a growing number of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees have tested positive for COVID-19.


  • Reports indicate that the Trump Administration plans to extend restrictions that ban non-essential travel between the U.S-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders until late August. This extension was agreed upon by the U.S. and the two other countries in separate agreements. As a reminder, the current travel restrictions were set to expire on July 31.
  • The Trump Administration announced that it will drop U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) plans from last week to deport international college students who only use online courses to study this fall. The plans would have prohibited international students who were enrolled in online classes in the fall from staying in the U.S. legally. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology both sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE after this plan was released.
  • President Trump signed H.R. 7440, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which would impose sanctions on Chinese officials, businesses and banks that help restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. Entities found by the Treasury Department to be involved in restricting Hong Kong’s autonomy will be subject to visa limitations for senior executives and restrictions on dollar transactions.
  • The Trump Administration has begun to show a willingness to compromise on expanded unemployment benefits that help millions of Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated last week that there may be room for compromise but that the Administration would push for benefits not to exceed workers’ salaries. White House spokesperson Judd Deere indicated Monday that the President does not support continuing the $600 per week payments but would potentially support a lower weekly payment.
    • As a reminder, these benefits are set to expire on July 31.
  • Health and Human Services (HHS) testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir said on Tuesday that the U.S is aiming to be capable of administering at least 100M COVID-19 tests per month by September. Giroir added that the country is in a “much better place” on testing than four months ago.
  • EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced Monday that the Trump Administration would not tighten the Federal pollution limits for smog.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper tapped Michael Kratsios, the White House’s Chief Technology Officer, to serve as acting Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the White House intends to officially nominate him for the Senate-confirmed post.
    • While at the White House, Kratsios has focused on initiatives related to artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, commercial drones, STEM education and advanced manufacturing, and has been “integral” in Trump’s efforts to expand 5G wireless communications technology.
  • The Commerce Department is hoping to promote software-based 5G network innovations while not undercutting European hardware suppliers such as Nokia and Ericsson according to Robert Blair’s, the Special Representative for International Telecommunications Policy at the White House, comments in a Council on Foreign Relations panel discussion. Many U.S officials have talked about ways to build the 5G network in the cloud. 5G via software would be an American alternative to the 5G hardware that European firms and Chinese firm Huawei have produced.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that an Atlas Air cargo plane crashed outside of Houston last year because the pilot misapplied an autopilot control which the captain failed to correct, a situation that could have been avoided had a long-delayed pilot record database existed.
  • There were almost 26,000 drug and alcohol violations by truckers in the first six months of 2020, according to data logged by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The data comes from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a program which was designed by Congress four years ago to create better accountability among drivers. Most of the violations were for marijuana, with cocaine and alcohol being the second and third most common reasons for infractions.
  • Federal Register Notices:
    • FDA and HHS issued a notice on the authorization of emergency use of certain medical devices during COVID-19. The notice can be found here.
    • The National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a notice of a meeting for the National Park System Advisory Board. The notice can be found here.

Other News

  • The U.S. budget deficit reached $3T in the previous 12 months through June, putting the federal government on pace to register the largest annual deficit as a share of the economy since World War II.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his new infrastructure plans today, which call for more than $2T to be spent over four years. His campaign has said that this figure would be paid for by tax increases on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
  • According to a study by Families USA, since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, more than 5.4M people have lost their health insurance coverage. These figures outpace the health insurance losses that resulted from the Great Recession. The press release can be found here.
  • According to data accumulated by Yelp, 66,000 businesses have closed since March 1. The second half of June saw more businesses close permanently than in the previous three months. Read more here.
    • Additionally, researchers at Harvard estimated that nearly 110,000 small businesses across the country had decided to shut down permanently between early March and early May, based on data collected in weekly surveys by Alignable, a social media network for small-business owners.
  • The United Kingdom (U.K.) announced Tuesday that it will bar Chinese firm Huawei from its 5G networks. Speaking in Parliament, U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that British network operators will not be able to buy equipment from Huawei starting in 2021. Huawei gear will also be phased out of their infrastructure by 2027.
  • Fifteen states and the District of Columbia announced their cooperation in speeding up the usage of zero-emission trucks and buses. The agreement will encourage the development of a self-sustaining market for zero-emission trucks. The goal for this group is to have all trucks be zero-emission by 2050. The full memorandum of understanding is attached.
  • In an amicus brief filed with the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, the state of North Dakota argued that closing the Dakota Access Pipeline would have a “devastating” impact on the state. The brief warned that the state could lose billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
  • JetBlue announced Monday that it will block the selling of middle seats on its flights until at least September.
  • As a reminder, yesterday we reported on a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that argued filling middle seats on airplanes increases the likelihood of being infected with COVID-19 by a nearby passenger from 1 in 7,700, to 1 in 4,300.
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