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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 17, 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 now require masks during committee hearings, per new guidance issued by the Capitol physician last night. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had discussed the idea with Democrats during a conference call on Monday, expressing outrage that some Republicans have refused to wear face coverings in the Capitol.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) announced on Twitter that she will introduce legislation requiring lawmakers to disclose if they or their families have personally benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which Congress created in response to the coronavirus crisis but did not include disclosure requirements.  Most of the loans are expected to be forgiven, effectively turning them into taxpayer-funded grants, if businesses meet conditions such as spending most of the money on payroll. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also tweeted saying “we will have PPP loan disclosure. No dispute over larger loan recipients being disclosed.  The only issue still being discussed with the administration is how to treat smaller loans to mostly micro-business, sole proprietors & independent contractors.”  On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added in a tweet that he would be talking with senators and others “on a bipartisan basis to strike the appropriate balance for proper oversight of #ppploans and appropriate protection of small business information.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned the nation risks a resurgence of coronavirus infections should states fail to remain vigilant as they reopen their economies. “When I look at the TV and I see pictures of people congregating at bars when the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that, that’s very risky,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview Tuesday.  He added, “people keep talking about a second wave, we’re still in a first wave.”  The virus continued its steady spread with several states reporting their largest one-day increases in new cases yet. Florida reported 2,783 new cases, Texas 2,622, and Arizona 2,392.
  • On Tuesday, both the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees held hearings pertaining to the U.S. energy sector, which has lost 1.3 million jobs in the economic downturn due to the pandemic.  There was a push to include direct payments to wind and solar projects in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.  Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), said he backs some “targeted investment” to help the broader energy sector including clean energy but also fossil fuels to put people back to work and “advance our clean energy goals.”
  • The Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department have ended their investigations into Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R-GA) stock trades.  Deborah Sue Mayer, the Ethics Committee’s chief counsel said in a letter, “based on all the information before it, the Committee did not find evidence that your actions violated federal law, Senate Rules or standards of conduct.”
  • President Trump may soon be welcoming foreign leaders to the White House again after a pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, and his aides are in talks to host the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda.  President Trump plans to announce an increase in the number of U.S. troops stationed in Poland.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers Wednesday that circulation of physical U.S. coinage slowed to a near halt amid the coronavirus outbreak but that the central bank is working to fix the flow.  The spread of COVID-19 led to a rise in contactless payments and more limited cash circulation as more Americans sheltered in place and shopped online.

In the News:

  • Stocks rose slightly in volatile trading on Wednesday as gains in the major tech companies offset a decline in the groups that would benefit the most from an economic reopening.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 41 points higher, or 0.1 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.8 percent.
  • Google is offering an additional $200 million in advertising grants for nonprofit organizations and is releasing a slew of product updates as its gears up for a reopening of economies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.  It’s also adding new features to its platforms, such as a tool that lets users search and book local services on Google through its Local Services Ads offering.
  • Home construction in the U.S. rebounded by 4.3 percent in May after steep declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the May rise in home construction followed declines in April and March.
  • The third-largest movie theater chain in the U.S., Cinemark, is looking to have all of its more than 500 cinemas reopened by July 17. The company announced on Wednesday a phased reopening plan starting June 19 in Texas. The rest of its locations will open between July 3 and July 17.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday it is dropping hydroxychloroquine from its global study looking at potential treatments for the coronavirus.  The decision to end hydroxychloroquine testing in the Solidarity trial came after data from the trial and another study suggested it would not be beneficial, said Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, a WHO medical officer. The announcement is likely to further dampen hopes the drug is helpful against the coronavirus.
  • More than 60 percent of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been canceled as the Chinese capital raised its alert level Wednesday against a new coronavirus outbreak and other nations confront rising numbers of illnesses and deaths.