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Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 14, 2020

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines provided by the Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs team.

In Washington:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) released the details of their emergency remote proceedings.  The plan temporarily implements remote committee proceedings, remote voting on the House floor, and provides for remote voting through technology after a system is developed and certified.  The proxy voting system would allow one lawmaker to vote for up to 10 members. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), released a statement on Wednesday calling the Democrats’ proposal “the biggest power grab in the history of Congress.”
  • The House will be voting on H.R. 6800, “The HEROES Act” tomorrow.  So far, five moderate Democrats have said they will not support the package due to concerns about provisions related to undocumented immigrants, the rushed process, and the overall size of the bill.  Retiring member Peter King (R-NY), says he will support the bill and expects a handful of other Republicans to follow suit.
  • Senate Republicans are beginning to formulate their own set of policy ideas for the next bill, looking to present alternatives to the House Democrats’ package. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) met with President Trump to discuss his bill to give state and local governments more flexibility to use the $150 billion in aid previously approved.  Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said he is working on a proposal that would allow workers to keep receiving some of the unemployment benefits as they move back into the workforce.  Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has discussed her proposal to offer tax breaks to essential workers with members of the administration.  Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has proposed having the federal government help to offer additional compensation to essential workers.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would like to extend the timeline for the small business loan program and offer additional forms of small-business aid.
  • In a rare move on May 13, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that the U.S. economy could be locked in a multiyear recession if the Congress and White House didn’t authorize more aid to address the economic consequences of the coronavirus. Speaker Pelosi seized on Powell’s remarks supporting more stimulus.  “The American people and experts agree that we must ‘Think Big’ to protect lives and livelihoods during the coronavirus crisis. Not acting is the most expensive course,” she said.
  • Today, Dr. Rick Bright testified before the House Health subcommittee and said he tried to warn superiors about critical medical supply shortages but was dismissed.  “As I reflect on the past few months of this outbreak, it is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook” he said.
  • President Donald Trump openly criticized NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s response about opening schools before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Trump said Fauci did not give an “acceptable answer” when telling senators that there’s “no easy answer” on whether schools can reopen this fall . Dr. Fauci offered a cautious view telling senators that further evaluation of conditions will be needed closer to the fall time.  The President said he was taken aback by Fauci’s concerns.  “I think you should absolutely open the schools. I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed,” he said.
  • The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. Jim. Clyburn (D-SC), held its first bipartisan briefing to discuss how to safely reopen the country.  The briefing highlighted the stark divide between both parties with Democrats describing a crisis that could linger for another year until a vaccine is developed, and Republicans emphasizing the unemployment rate suggesting it could outweigh the efforts to guard against the virus through stay-at-home orders.
  • The Trump administration plans to extend virus border restrictions indefinitely.  A new order under review by several government agencies is intended to extend until Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C. until he decides the virus no longer poses a threat. The restrictions have shut the U.S. immigration system and just two people seeking humanitarian protection at the southern border have been allowed to stay since March 21, according to unpublished U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data obtained by The Washington Post.
  • President Donald Trump plans to name Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s vaccines division, and Gustave Perna, a four-star U.S. general, to lead a Manhattan Project-style effort to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus.  The project seeks to produce 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, hastening development by simultaneously testing many different candidates and beginning production before they’ve completed clinical trials.
  • President Trump threatened to impose new taxes on American companies that produce goods outside the U.S.  During an interview with Fox Business on Thursday, the President said that taxation was an “incentive” for companies to return manufacturing to the United States.  He did not specify whether these would be new across-the-board tariffs or another form of taxes, which would require an act of Congress.

In the News:

  • The Labor Department reports that another 2.98 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.  That brings the total number of first-time claimants to 36.5 million since mid-March, representing 22.4 percent of the labor force.
  • The Washington Post  reports that the U.S. Postal Service is reviewing its delivery contracts with Amazon.com, United Parcel Service Inc , FedEx and other large shippers.
  • The Pentagon has removed its lead official in charge of executing the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase production of key equipment to combat COVID-19, CNN reports, citing an administration official.  Jennifer Santos, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, played a key role in the Pentagon’s efforts to use the act to ramp up production of key items such as N-95 respirator masks and testing swabs.
  • Memorial Day travel is “likely to set a record low” amid the national coronavirus outbreak, AAA announced Thursday.  The organization said it would not issue a travel forecast for the holiday weekend because the COVID-19 crisis has limited the accuracy of economic data it typically uses to generate a report, according to a news release.
  • According to CovidExitStrategy.org, a group of health policy experts, only North Dakota and Kentucky meet federal guidelines to reopen their states.  There are 30 states labeled “yellow” indicating that progress is being made, but 18 states are “red” with symptoms and cases still spreading and have a way to go before they meet CDC standards to recommend for safe reopening.
  • Global stocks fell Thursday in the wake of a selloff on Wall Street after cautious comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell added to concerns about the global economy. The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.8 percent, while futures tied to the S&P 500 were broadly flat.

A new report by the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that average weekly household credit card spending plummeted a staggering 40 percent by the end of the month