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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 26, 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:

  • Congressional leaders will soon name the chair of the coronavirus oversight commission, which was created by the CARES Act to increase transparency and oversight of the coronavirus relief funds.  Retired Gen. Joseph Dunford is the leading candidate for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to chair the five-member commission.  No final decision has been made and Dunford must still go through an ethics review. 
  • POLITiCO reports that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) notified congressional committees Thursday that they’ll get complete access to individual loan data from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) far beyond what the agencies have agreed to share with the broader public.  In letters to lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said by the end of next week they expect to give lawmakers “full access to all PPP loan-level information–including, but not limited to, all borrower names and loan amounts.” The data will be shared, understanding that “nonpublic personally identifiable and commercially sensitive business information will be treated as confidential.”
  • A new Government Accountability Office report said the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offers small business loans that can be forgiven in exchange for maintaining payroll, had limited safeguards and insufficient guidance and oversight planning all of which have increased the likelihood that borrowers may misuse or improperly receive loans.  The report will likely refuel long-running concerns about the rollout of the program. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence will travel in the coming days to three states hit hardest by a recent surge in coronavirus cases, he announced on Friday during the first formal White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing since April 27.  Pence said he would visit Texas on Sunday alongside Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.  He said he would travel to Arizona on Tuesday and Florida next Thursday to “get a ground report” in places where coronavirus is rising dramatically.   Friday’s briefing came a day after the US saw a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day with 37,077 reported Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. 
  • The latest coronavirus outbreaks are reshaping the GOP’s political and legislative strategy, with Republicans planning to focus more on health care in the next coronavirus relief bill.  They’ve also expressed rare frustration at the Trump administration for its decision to wind down federally supported testing sites.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote a letter to the administration urging them to change course.
  • Congressional lawmakers are seeking changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before giving it a new injection of federal funding, citing mistakes at the public health agency during the coronavirus pandemic.  In a statement to Bloomberg, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said, “I don’t know what the problem is—there’s just a problem. I’m not going to give them more funds unless they reform unless that money goes toward reform.”
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hasn’t wavered in his warnings to lawmakers since the coronavirus crisis hit: Congress needs to bail out state and municipal governments to avoid an anemic economic revival.  Powell testified to the House Financial Services Committee last week saying, “It will hold back the economic recovery if [states and localities] continue to lay people off, and if they can continue to cut essential services.  And in fact, that’s kind of what happened post the global financial crisis.”  But Powell has shown little interest in using a long-standing central bank power to step in if Congress fails to heed his warnings.

In the News: 

  • Gov. Greg Abbott (TX) on Thursday hit pause, stopping additional phases of the state’s reopening as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared.  His decision was an abrupt turnaround and came as a growing number of states paused reopenings amid rising case counts.
  • Florida has suspended all on-premise alcohol consumption in bars, according to a tweet from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.  The announcement came the same day the state announced the highest single-day coronavirus case increase of nearly 9,000. 
  • Stocks fell sharply on Friday amid concerns over the rising number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and its impact on the economic recovery. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 700 points, or 2.7 percent, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.1 percent each
  • More than 75 percent of Americans are afraid of contracting the coronavirus, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds, as the number of new COVID-19 cases surge nationwide. California, Texas, and Florida have all experienced record highs in daily coronavirus cases the past week.
  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that he would use federal power to require Americans to wear face masks in public a move that would mark a significant intervention by the federal government and could see considerable pushback from states.
  • Microsoft announced Friday it will permanently close all of its 83 physical stores and switch to online only.  It will keep its locations in London, New York City, Sydney, Australia and Redmond, Washington but they will be reimagined as “experience centers,” the company stated.  
  • American Airlines said it will resume full-capacity flights starting July 1. The airline currently has a 70 percent capacity limit on flights due to COVID-19.  American says passengers will have to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire prior to boarding its flights and confirm they have not experienced symptoms of the virus in the past 14 days.

The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. CDC Director Robert Redfield’s estimate, shared with reporters in a conference call, indicates that at least 24 million Americans have been infected so far.