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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 18, 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:

  • Democrats are pushing to add funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and policy changes affecting police departments in next year’s appropriations bills, threatening to further push back the already-delayed fiscal 2021 markup process. The committee was expected to begin marking up the dozen spending bills next week, but now that prospect seemed unlikely. “Funding the government is a serious responsibility, and I will not allow the appropriations process to be hijacked and turned into a partisan sideshow,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a statement.
  • President Donald Trump’s plan for a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill to boost the struggling economy faces strong opposition from Senate Republicans.  GOP senators are warning that the proposal is too “rich” and would be a “heavy lift” in Congress.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has expressed concern about the impact of the surging federal deficit.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said the administration is going about it backward by coming up with a $1 trillion price tag before laying out what it would be spent on.  House Democratic leaders are planning to approve a surface transportation bill with a price tag around $500 billion over five years by the end of this month, which could put pressure on the Senate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said whatever bill Senate Republicans come up with “could be a lot less.”
  • Last night, during a television interview with Fox News President Donald Trump, said “we’re very close to a vaccine and we’re very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics. but even without that, I don’t even like to talk about that, because it’s fading away, it’s going to fade away, but having a vaccine would be really nice and that’s going to happen.” Trump’s comments come as the U.S. continues to see 20,000 new daily cases from the pandemic.
  • Five Democratic committee and subcommittee chairs sent a letter to the Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza saying the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ independent oversight arm, has been rebuffed in its attempts to interview top SBA officials and access key documents about the implementation of the small business program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Lawmakers are asking SBA to “immediately comply” with the GAO requests for information and interviews, calling it a “violation of the law.”.
  • House Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan on Thursday that calls for a huge increase in funding to repair roads and bridges while expanding broadband access in rural areas. The ”Moving Forward Act” is the latest attempt to advance an infrastructure package that has been discussed since the early days of the Trump administration but has failed to gain traction, though lawmakers are more optimistic as Congress considers more spending to help stabilize the economy amid fallout from the coronavirus.  Its largest component is a $500 billion Democrat-led bill from the House Transportation Committee that has sparked complaints from Republicans on the committee, which have nicknamed the legislation the “my way or the highway bill,” airing frustrations that they were excluded from its development.

In the News:

  • The Labor Department says jobless claims totaled 1.5 million last week, higher than the 1.3 million that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting. The government report’s total was 58,000 lower than the previous week’s 1.566 million, which was revised up by 24,000.  More than 45 million Americans have filed first-time claims since mid-March.
  • Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Houston-area residents should follow stay-at-home guidelines that were discontinued weeks ago to cope with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ruled out such measures since reopening the state seven weeks ago.  COVID-19 hospitalizations swelled by 11 percent in Texas to 2,793, the biggest 24-hour increase since June 4, state figures showed yesterday.
  • COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the American South and West, leading some state officials to rethink reopening strategies.  Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order yesterday and gave cities and counties the power to require people to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus as cases surge in the state. Leaders across Arizona pleaded in recent days for more authority to address the lax social distancing they have noted since the end of the state’s stay-at-home order on May 15. Florida posted a three-day moving average of 2,384 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, an all-time high, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  In response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that he’s considering imposing a quarantine on travelers arriving in New York from states like Florida where coronavirus cases have spiked.
  • McDonald’s is reportedly planning to keep salads, bagels, and yogurt parfaits off its menus for the foreseeable future after the coronavirus pandemic led the company to shrink its offerings.  The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the fast-food chain told U.S. franchisees that it plans to add back seven items by July, but dozens more will remain off of the menu.
  • India’s number of new coronavirus cases spiked by nearly 13,000 on Thursday, represented India’s largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases.