COVID-19 Update | Wednesday, July 22
July 22, 2020
The House and Senate are both back in session.
- Negotiations on the next COVID-19 package continue to progress slowly. There remains a lack of consensus within the Senate Republican Caucus, which will strengthen Senate Democrats’ negotiating position and is delaying overall progress. However, Senate Republican leadership began briefing Republican staff on the included policy principles. Legislative text, in whole or in part, may be available late tonight or tomorrow.
- Despite President Trump’s insistence, Secretary Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both said that it is unclear if a payroll tax cut will be included in the bill. Additionally, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that a payroll tax cut would not be possible until October and voters will likely not notice the extra tax saving.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will also play a significant role in negotiations and met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Secretary Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yesterday in the Speaker’s office. As of now, no further discussions are scheduled, and the Democrats are awaiting the Senate Republican bill.
- Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also met with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and other senior appropriators to discuss the appropriations provisions in the package.
- Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s legislation is expected to include a new round of direct payments to Americans but with lower income restrictions, liability protection for schools and businesses as they begin to reopen, billions of dollars in new funds to upgrade state-level COVID-19 testing capacity, additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding for small businesses, $105B for schools as they seek to restart operations, and a provision to provide flexibility for the use of state aid.
- There is also talk of a separate temporary unemployment insurance bill being considered.
- Both the House and Senate passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to boost domestic production of semiconductors, which are a component of electronics that American leadership is wary of allowing Chinese manufacturers to produce.
- The Senate passed the CHIPS Act, which was introduced by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as an amendment to S. 4049 yesterday in a 96-4 vote.
- The House passed a similar amendment to H.R. 6395, led by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), as part of an en bloc amendment 336-71.
- The Senate continues to consider S. 4049, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 NDAA.
- The Senate voted 23-77 to reject an amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would reduce the Department of Defense budget by 10% and redirect the funding towards domestic education, health and housing programs.
- The Senate voted 94-6 to adopt an amendment offered by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) that would add four diseases to the list of service-connected conditions to veterans of the Vietnam War.
- The Senate voted 87-13 to invoke cloture on the substitute amendment, after completion of consideration of amendments, setting up additional procedural votes later this week. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has committed to passing the NDAA this week.
- Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and eight other Energy and Natural Resources Committee Democrats sent a letter to Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) asking for an expedited hearing for Bureau of Land Management nominee William Perry Pendley. Mr. Pendley’s nomination has been controversial because he suggested selling public lands in an op-ed for the National Review. The op-ed can be found here. The letter can be found here.
- The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held an Executive Business meeting to vote on legislation and nominations.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s nomination was reported favorably to the floor.
- The Committee approved S. 4162, the AIR Act of 2020, which would use 2018 or 2019 data to allocate airport funding for the next few years so that airport improvement grants aren’t lowered because of the pandemic-induced decline in air travel.
- The Committee approved S. 3958, the Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2020, which would allow the use of incentive payments to expedite certain federally financed airport development projects.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a markup today and approved the following legislation, among others:
- S. 4133, the REAL ID Modernization Act, which would increase the number of Americans with REAL ID-compliant licenses and state identification cards by allowing Departments of Motor Vehicles to accept materials submitted electronically. It also would lift requirements that applicants provide Social Security numbers, and other documents.
- Additionally, airlines and online booking agencies would be required to notify customers that REAL ID-compliant licenses and state identification cards will be required for domestic flights.
- S. 3455, the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which would impose a ban on use of the app TikTok by Federal employees, Members of Congress, and Congressional staff on Federally-issued devices.
- As a reminder, Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have consistently voiced concerns that Americans could expose their information to China’s government by using TikTok.
- H.R. 1313, the Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act, which would provide more flexibility to public transit agencies receiving security grants, including allowing them to use the grants to backfill positions when employees attend security training.
- Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Workforce Recovery and Training Services Act, S. 4239, yesterday. The bill would promote workforce recovery through the provision of additional training services and workforce investment activities. According to the Senator, the bill would help workers navigate the shifting economy by gaining new skills, and providing employer incentives could help boost the nation’s recovery.
- Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) unveiled a plan today to allow student borrowers to continue deferring payments after October 1 if they do not have an income. A press release on the plan is here.
- The House passed H.R. 1957, the Great American Outdoors Act, in a 310 to 107 vote. The legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature. As a reminder, the legislation would permanently reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide funding to address the maintenance backlog at U.S. national parks.
- The House Rules Committee met to prepare the first appropriations minibus for FY 2021. The House is expected to begin consideration of the legislation later this week.
- One amendment from Reps. Richard Hudson (R-NC), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) that has received bipartisan support would increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science and Technology Office to study the relationship between per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure and susceptibility to COVID-19.
- Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) led a letter with over 55 lawmakers asking for House leadership to suspend the federal excise tax on purchases of heavy-duty trucks through the end of 2021 to help aid the trucking industry. The letter stated that the existing tax can add up to $21,000 to the price of a new truck. The letter can be found here.
- The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing today titled “Examining the National Response to the Worsening Coronavirus Pandemic: Part II.”
- The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) issued a joint statement calling on House leadership to pull the House FY 2021 Homeland Security appropriations legislation from floor consideration amid concerns over law enforcement and protestors. As a reminder, the legislation is included in the second appropriations minibus set to be considered next week.
- The EPA published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on a carbon dioxide standard for aircraft engines. The emergency standard will make the United States compliant with rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
- Trade discussions will resume between the U.S. and the United Kingdom (U.K.) on a free trade agreement on Monday. Negotiations are expected to last two weeks between the two countries.
- Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly unlikely that the U.S. and U.K. will complete free trade negotiations and sign a deal this year.
- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin said that the United States ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas.
- State Department spokesperson Morgan Oratagus said that the Chinese consulate was told to close to protect Americans’ intellectual property.
- Robert Primus was nominated to the Surface Transportation Board. Primus was formerly the Chief of Staff to Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and former Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA).
- Jack Wilmer, the Department of Defense’s Deputy Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity and the Chief Information Security Officer, is set to leave his post at the end of July, the latest in a series of senior-level departures from the department.
- The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence released recommendations, including advocating for the creation of a U.S. Digital Service Academy to train future federal employees in high-tech skills. The commission, which is chaired by Alphabet technical adviser Eric Schmidt, was created by the FY 2019 NDAA to examine how the U.S. can get ahead in high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Federal Register Notices:
- The Department of Education issued a notice on CARES Act Section 18004 (a)(3) budget and expenditures. The notice can be found here.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice and request for comments on aircraft registration. The notice can be found here.
- The FAA and DOT issued a notice of proposed special conditions on Boeing Commercial 777-9 Airplanes and structure mounted airbags. The notice can be found here.
- The FAA and DOT issued a notice and request for comments on renewed approval of aircraft registration. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC issued a final rule on the electronic delivery of MVPD communications and the modernization of media regulation initiatives. The notice can be found here.
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a notice on the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy industry. The notice can be found here.
- The General Services Administration (GSA) issued a notice of a virtual webinar regarding GSA’s implementation of Section 889 of the FY 2019 NDAA. The notice can be found here.
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a notice of a Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) meeting for the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. The notice can be found here.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a notice on the continuation of temporary travel restrictions pertaining to 19 CFR Chapter I, which will restrict travel along the U.S – Canada border. The notice can be found here.
- CBP issued a notice of temporary travel restrictions on land ports of entry and ferries service between the United States and Mexico. The notice can be found here.
- United Airlines announced that they will require their passengers to wear a face covering at the airport while they are waiting for their flight, in baggage claim areas and at airport kiosks, in addition to on the aircraft. The airline said that United Airlines employees will verbally remind passengers, and those who do not comply may be denied boarding and temporarily banned from flying with United Airlines.
- Six conservative organizations, including Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asking for Green New Deal provisions to be left out of the next COVID-19 relief package. The letter can be found here.
- The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for Congress to extend payroll support to airline workers. The letter said that a reauthorization of the CARES Act would “stop preventable mass job loss.” The letter can be found here.
- The GPS Innovation alliance sent a letter to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee leadership asking for the committee to “correct the record” on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s testimony before the committee last month regarding the agency’s decision to approve Ligado’s 5G plans. The letter said that the plans will disrupt their members’ operations. The letter can be found here.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a map that shows where clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are taking place. The map shows the information on both a state and Congressional district level. The map shows almost 60 trials in all 50 states and about 85% of Congressional districts.
- The New York State Assembly approved a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in schools on Tuesday. The legislation, NY A6787 (19R), also passed the chamber last June but died in the Senate. If enacted, it would halt use of such technology until at least July 2022 and would order the State Education Department to study the issue.