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Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 29, 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

  • The House will meet for a pro forma session on Monday and the full House is out of session next week. The Senate will reconvene on Monday and resume consideration of John Badalamenti to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sent a letter to Members updating them on the House legislative schedule for summer 2020, along with an updated calendar. The House will be in session at some point in June, once the Senate moves on the Heroes Act or other legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the passage of H. Res. 965, the legislation will be considered in committees and on the Floor while ensuring safety. Throughout the month of June, the focus will be on legislative committee work. Must-pass legislation will be considered on the Floor in late June and going through July, including a 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); an infrastructure package that includes reauthorization of expiring surface transportation provisions; reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); legislation to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care; and appropriation bills for Fiscal Year 2021. If the House is able to complete its work on these items by the end of July, no changes will be made to the August District Work Period unless additional measures need to be taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Members will be given at least seventy-two-hours’ notice of any Floor action relating to COVID-19 response legislation.
  • Clinical trials of drugs, treatments, and vaccines unrelated to COVID-19 will likely face delays going forward as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) focuses its resources on addressing the virus, according to the agency’s Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. In an interview with CNBC Gottlieb said “A lot of drug companies put clinical trials on hold,” adding that some companies didn’t go forward with planned trials and others suspended ongoing trials. “The agency has been keeping up” so far, Gottlieb added. The FDA put out new guidance on 26 May that said the agency might need to prioritize resources moving forward as the staff is stretched thin.
  • The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), held a video briefing today with seven mayors to discuss the need for more money for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The hearing also focused on the impact of a lack of federal comprehensive testing, tracing and targeted containment plan, and what the government can do to address the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. The mayors included Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Georgia, Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Washington, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California, Mary Jane Scott of Magnum, Oklahoma and Lenny Curry of Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced that he and his wife Anne tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, meaning it was likely that he was struck with COVID-19 when he experienced flu-like symptoms in April. He said he would continue to wear a mask. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who tested positive for the virus in March, has declined to wear a face mask, pointing to studies suggesting that he has immunity from the virus. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has tested positive for COVID-19. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has not been tested for COVID-19 because she has not had any symptoms. Meanwhile, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are tested for the virus daily. Some Republican members are refusing to wear masks in the hallways of the Capitol or when chatting with aides and colleagues — even when they’re unable to maintain a social distance.
  • Starting today, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) relaxed the stay-at-home order because the city had met its goal of a 14-day decline in community spread of the illness moving into Phase 1. Other metrics for testing capacity, health care system capacity and public system capacity related to testing and tracing have also been reached. However, the move could pose a risk of a resurgence of the virus in Washington, currently one of the worst hot spots in the nation, and could become an equally potent symbol of the downside of Trump’s go-fast approach. Robert Bednarczyk, an assistant professor at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health said “I’m a little confused about the data D.C. is using. It doesn’t look like they’ve had a big enough decline to justify reopening.”

In the News

  • Global cases of coronavirus have reached 5.83 million, while in the U.S. there are more than 1.72 million cases and at least 101,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The personal savings rate hit a historic 33 percent in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This rate, how much people save as a percentage of their disposable income, is the highest since tracking started in the 1960s.
  • A series of new studies across the world that are trying to quantify how many people have been infected reveals that we’re likely a long way off from establishing “herd immunity” of the coronavirus. The studies show that the percentage of people who have been infected so far is still in the single digits. The precise herd immunity threshold for the novel coronavirus is not yet clear, but several experts said they believed it would be higher than 60 percent.
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Friday press conference that he is confident his city will begin reopening within the next two weeks. “The subways are the most important piece of the equation,” de Blasio said. New York City is the only one of 10 state regions still on lockdown. The city had met just four of seven metrics required by the state to reopen as of 27 May. It has less than 30 percent of hospital beds and intensive-care beds available and needs more contact tracers.
  • Clay Lacy Aviation of Van Nuys, near Los Angeles, is sharing the benefits of a taxpayer-financed loan with its private jet-owning clients after it won the loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The owners who opted in will get account credits through a formula based on the amount of the loan and the cost each owner incurs to employ crew members.