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September 9, 2020

The Senate is in session and the House is in a “Committee Work Period” meaning the committees are conducting business, but no votes are scheduled. The Senate has scheduled votes today, while the House has votes scheduled for September 14.  

COVID-19 Relief Negotiations 

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin commented on Sunday that he and the President are supportive of additional stimulus, though he once again highlighted that the Administration and Congressional Democrats have not been able to agree on a topline number for the next relief package. He voiced support for a “targeted” bill, leaving the door open for another package 30 days from now, if necessary.
    • Amid fears that relief negotiations could complicate government spending discussions this month, Mnuchin commented that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to support a “clean” continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown at the end of this Fiscal Year. As a reminder, government funding expires on September 30, 2020.
      • Elevate would point out that a “clean” continuing resolution means different things to different people and expects there to be potentially contentious negotiations on both government funding and COVID-19 relief this month.
    • Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rejected a targeted bill due to concern that the Administration and Republicans would be unwilling to return to the negotiating table with legislation having been passed. In the joint statement they issued, they stated that the bill does not come close to addressing the nation’s problems and “is headed nowhere.”
  • As the Senate returns to session this week, Republicans continue to work on their “targeted” package, which they unveiled today. Elevate expects the bill will be brought to the Senate floor for consideration this Thursday. Read the bill text and summary here.
    • The legislation includes $300 in additional Federal unemployment insurance through December 27, $105B for education, additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $10B for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and liability protections.
  • Elevate is increasingly pessimistic that a COVID-19 relief package will be enacted before the end of the Fiscal Year. 



  • Senate Democrats are pushing to use the Congressional Review Act to counter President Trump’s Executive Order allowing companies to voluntarily defer the collection of payroll taxes. While the effort is not likely to be successful, it would further highlight the order, which has not been popular with private sector employers thus far. Federal employees, including active duty military and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees, are expected to be subject to the deferral.
    • As a reminder, deferred payroll taxes would be due to be repaid in April 2021.
  • Senate Minority Leader Schumer, along with transit advocates, heavily criticized a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rule that would limit reimbursements for disinfecting supplies after September 15. The interim policy, which state officials were reportedly briefed on last Tuesday, would affect schools, public transit, and other public facilities.
  • The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing September 30 on antitrust oversight that is set to feature testimony from Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons and Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Mark Delrahim.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is expected to hold a hearing on privacy issues this month. 


  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, indicated today that the Committee is launching an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and that Democrats are calling for his immediate suspension amid accusations of improper employee reimbursements for campaign contributions.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will markup 38 bills on Wednesday. The bills deal with issues across the spectrum of the committee’s jurisdiction. A memorandum from Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) that provides short summaries of each piece of legislation being considered can be found here.  
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing with Amtrak CEO William Flynn Wednesday. The hearing will likely focus on Amtrak’s announcement furloughing more than 2,000 employees despite receiving close to $1B through the CARES Act.
  • Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced H.R. 8163, which does not have a title yet, to limit support for deals with Chinese state-owned enterprises and increase the set-aside goal for the Program on China and Transformational Exports. Additionally, according to a press release from Rep. Barr, the House Republican China Task Force (CTF) plans to issue its final report on October 1.

General Congress 

  • Reports indicate that transportation leaders in both chambers are coalescing around a one-year extension of surface transportation legislation. The extension could pass by unanimous consent as a standalone bill. Though attaching it to a continuing resolution for government funding is also possible, both Schumer and Pelosi have stated that they would like the continuing resolution to be “clean.”


  • As we shared last week, the Administration recently sent a 23-page list to Congress regarding anomalies sought in the continuing resolution for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins on October 1.
    • Among the requests outlined in the document was a request that Congress let the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) take money from the general fund to make up for decreased aviation tax revenue.
  • According to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last week, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.4% for August, marking the fourth consecutive month of a decreased unemployment rate. The report showed that 1.4M new jobs were created in August, which is less than the 1.7M figure for July and the 4.8M for June. Permanent job losses increased to 3.4M in August, up from July’s 2.9M figure. For comparison, permanent job losses in August 2019 were 1.38M.  
  • According to data released by the Department of Commerce, the U.S. trade deficit rose to $63.6B in July, the highest level in 12 years and the largest monthly deficit since July 2008. The July 2020 figure was up 18.9% from June 2020’s $53.5B deficit.  
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) released its national freight strategic plan on Thursday. The plan outlines DOT’s vision and goals for the nation’s multimodal freight system and defines strategies to achieve those goals. An executive summary of the plan can be found here. The full 118-page report can be found here.  
  • DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced on Friday that it is proposing and seeking public comments on a new pilot program to allow drivers between the ages of 18-20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. This program could facilitate training a new generation of truck drivers at a time when the average age of drivers is steadily increasing.
  • Marlene Dortch, Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received a comment letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), along with Attorneys General from Indiana, Louisiana, and Missouri, in support of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency’s (NTIA) petition clarifying provisions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The letter shows support for narrowing the liability protections of social media companies, arguing that the proposed changes would empower state enforcement ability. A press release on the letter from Paxton’s office can be found here.   
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Jim Cooper (D-TN) announcing that the FCC Inspector General will not investigate what Members of the House called a conflict of interest regarding the FCC’s approval of Ligado 5G networks.  
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notification of mandatory guidelines and opened a 60-day comment period on a new drug test for truckers, which includes hair samples.
    • Chris Spear, CEO of the American Trucking Associations, expressed his frustration over the proposed regulation calling it “weak and misguided.” He also highlighted that the proposal was three years late.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) issued an emergency order Sunday allowing California grid managers to operate additional power generators without concern for environmental controls amid a continuing heat wave in the state.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order Friday rejecting the New York Independent System Operator’s effort to accommodate renewables in its capacity market.
  • President Trump announced plans to sign an expansion of the drilling moratorium off the coast of Southern states. The extension, which was announced at a campaign event in Florida, includes Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The moratorium will be extended from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2032.
  • According to the results of an FCC data collection effort released this past Friday, removing and replacing gear from China’s Huawei and ZTE would cost United States wireless carriers at least $1.84B.
    • Also, according to the report, at least $1.62B would be eligible for reimbursement under terms laid out in the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act, H.R. 4998, which was signed into law this past March.
  • Published reports indicate that the FAA is reviewing production of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. According to the reports, Boeing informed the FAA that certain parts produced at South Carolina facilities fail to meet Boeing design and manufacturing standards. This could lead to enhanced and accelerated inspections of as many of 900 Dreamliners that have been delivered since 2011.
  • The Interior Department asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to allow more flexible use of the FCC’s E-Rate subsidies to help virtual learning initiatives. In a letter that was published last Thursday, the Interior Department recommended that in light of the pandemic, the FCC should change the E-Rate program’s eligibility limitations to “support virtual learning activities in the coming academic year.”
  • The Administration is expected to file its antitrust lawsuit against Google this month after partisan complications delayed the introduction over the summer. The lawsuit has been in the works for about a year and has seen partnership between Justice Department lawyers and Attorneys General from almost every state.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveller enrollment centers are set to reopen today after being closed since March. They will feature many of the precautionary measures that have become the new norm during the pandemic. The reopening will allow those who have been conditionally approved for the Global Entry program to complete in-person interviews needed for final enrollment. NEXUS and U.S.-Canada Free and Secure Trade (FAST) interviews will remain suspended due to continuing travel restrictions and Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) and FAST-South enrollments may also continue to be limited.
  • The Administration’s deadline for a U.S. company to purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations is in one week. As a reminder, Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle are said to be in the running to make the purchase.
  • Today, the FAA published in the Federal Register an update on the Aviation Maintenance Technical Workforce Development Grant Program to increase interest and recruit students for careers in aviation maintenance. The goal is to provide grants to academia and the aviation community to help prepare a more inclusive talent pool of pilots and aviation maintenance technicians, to inspire and recruit the next generation of aviation professionals. The notice can be found here.
  • The normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab state in more than 25 years, will be signed at the White House on September 15.
  • For Federal Register notices, please refer to the end of the update. 

Other News 

  • According to a recent report from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, the labor market continues to face serious issues. Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 22M in March and April and still is 10.7M below February levels. State and local governments have shed 1.1M jobs, the majority of which were education jobs.
  • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME) model at the University of Washington, one of several COVID-19 models trusted by the White House, is projecting 410K COVID-19 deaths in the United States by January 1, 2021. 
    • Notably, the projection for deaths decreases significantly, to 288K, if face masks were universally worn.  
  • Travel spending in the week ending in August 29 grew by 1% to $13B. This is a 43% drop, or a $10B loss over the same week in 2019.
    • As of August 29, August recorded $42.1B in travel spending losses.
  • A new report from New York University called on Congress to create a digital regulatory agency to oversee Section 230 protections for tech companies, as well as significantly revamp the Section 230 legislation.
  • Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America, announced that the U.S. airline industry hopes the Federal government will begin researching a COVID-19 testing program that could replace quarantines and other such measures for some international flights, asserting that such a change could increase travel.  
  • CEOs of pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi, who are involved in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, issued a joint statement to not seek government approval for a vaccine until the vaccine has been proven to be both safe and effective. The joint statement is a rare move among industry rivals and in it the CEOs pledge to:
    • “Always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.
  • Continue to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards regarding the conduct of clinical trials and the rigor of manufacturing processes.
  • Only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA.
  • Work to ensure a sufficient supply and range of vaccine options, including those suitable for global access.”
  • The AFL-CIO filed a petition with CBP to issue a regional “withhold release order” (WRO) on cotton products from Xinjiang in China. The petition argues that such an order would force the Chinese government to risk losing investments from U.S. companies over the continued persecution of Uighurs.
    • Xinjiang accounts for 85% of Chinese cotton production and while a WRO is not an outright import ban, it requires goods to be re-exported or destroyed if CBP determines they were made by forced labor.
  • The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) will host its U.S. Defense Protection Security (USDPS) Conference this week. Tuesday will have a maritime focus, Wednesday an air focus, and Thursday will focus on ground systems.
  • According to British media reports, discussions have begun between the U.S and U.K to develop an “air-bridge,” which would allow international traveling to resume between certain cities in the two countries without the need for a full quarantine.  
  • The European Commission is planning to launch a new digital tax that feeds into the E.U. budget next summer. According to reports, Commission staff outlined the plans to national tax officials last week during a high-level working group in Brussels.
  • Top officials have started consultations with World Trade Organization (WTO) members to whittle down the eight current contenders for WTO Director-General to just five by the end of next week.
    • Each WTO member can state up to four preferences in the first round of consultations, which wrap up September 16. After the final five are selected, there will be two more rounds of campaigning and consultations to pare down the list to two individuals and then to the winner, according to the WTO website.
  • U.S. and U.K. trade negotiators begin their virtual fourth round of talks today on a free trade agreement, which are slated to last through September 18.

Federal Register Notices 

  • DOT
    • The FAA announced a virtual meeting of the Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Task Force (YIATF) on October 16 from 9:00am-2:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.  
    • The FAA announced that that it is terminating its previously initiated processes for the development of Air Tour Management Plans (ATMP) and Environmental Assessments (EA)/Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for several National Park System units. The notice can be found here.  
    • The FMCSA announced a pilot program and a request for comments on a program that would allow temporary regulatory relief from the Agency’s hours-of-service (HOS) requirement that all driving by drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) be completed within 14 hours after coming on duty. During the pilot program, known as the Split Duty Period Pilot Program, participating CMV drivers would have the option to pause their 14-hour on-duty period (also called a driving window) with one off-duty period of no less than 30 minutes and no more than 3 hours. Comments must be received on or before November 2. The notice can be found here.  
    • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced the sixtieth meeting of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) on October 1 from 9:30-11:30am. The notice can be found here.
    • DOT announced a public meeting of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) on September 24 from 9:30am-4:00pm ET. The meeting will discuss the report of the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force, an ACPAC subcommittee, transparency of airline ancillary service fees, and involuntary changes to travel itineraries. The notice can be found here.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an Order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The order is effective from September 4 to December 31. The notice can be found here.  
  • The Department of State issued a request for public comment on data necessary for the Passport Services Directorate to determine whether an applicant is eligible to receive a special validation in his or her U.S. passport book permitting the applicant to make single or multiple round-trips to a restricted country or area, specifically North Korea, subject to additional requirements. The notice can be found here.  
  • The National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC’s) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), in coordination with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), requested input related to the implementation of the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan. Comments are due at 11:59pm ET on October 19. The notice can be found here.  
  • The FCC announced a virtual meeting of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) on September 18 from 10:00am-4:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.  
  • The FCC announced a virtual meeting of the Technological Advisory Council on September 22 from 10:00am-3:00pm ET. The notice can be found here.
  • The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education within the Department of Education announced waivers that the U.S. Department of Education granted, within the last 30 days, under the CARES Act. The notice can be found here.  

The International Trade Administration announced the reestablishment of the Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee (ETTAC) and solicitation of nominations for membership. Nominations for membership must be received on or before 4:00pm ET on September 30. The notice can be found here.  

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