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Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 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 is set to vote on the two high-profile policy issues before leaving town for the two-week July 4 recess, however, neither of the measures is likely to be taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate, though they’ll give Democrats the chance to highlight their priorities as Washington ahead of the November election.  On Monday, the House is expected to pass legislation that would expand the Affordable Care Act.  The House is also slated to take up the “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020”, H.R. 7301, this week.  The bill is aimed at providing relief for homeowners and renters struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, and is sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). The provisions in the bill were previously included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which passed largely along party lines and is not being taken up in the Senate.  Speaking on the House floor on Friday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said,“This bill would authorize nearly $200 billion for the dire housing needs arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 7301 which was included in the HEROES Act would help renters and homeowners by extending the eviction and foreclosure moratorium, provide $100 billion for emergency rental assistance and $75 billion for homeowners assistance to coverage mortgage, property tax, utilities and more than $11 billion for homeless assistance programs.” House Democrats will also vote on a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan this week which would provide funding for transportation, the expansion of broadband and investments in schools and hospitals.
  • The Senate will continue its work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed out of committee in a 25-2 vote earlier this month, authorizes $636.4 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $25.9 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. The Senate will vote to formally start debate on the bill on Monday night, but there have already been hundreds of potential amendments filed by senators.
  • On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve’s response to the coronavirus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell are scheduled to testify.  Under the March coronavirus stimulus bill both Mnuchin and Powell are required to testify before the panel on “the obligations of the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System, and transactions entered into, under this [CARES] Act.”  
  • Also on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on international pandemic preparedness and response and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on how to safely return to work and school.  
  • Vice President Mike Pence has delayed campaign events scheduled for Arizona and Florida as coronavirus cases jump in those states, according to a senior Trump campaign official.  Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, still plans to travel to both states to meet with governors and health care officials, a White House official said. 
  • As coronavirus infections surge in the U.S. South and West, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that if not properly controlled, outbreaks in Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and California will likely spread significantly over the next couple of weeks and could result in half the U.S. population contracting coronavirus by the end of 2021. “By the time we get to the end of this year, probably close to half the population will have had coronavirus, and that’s if we just stay at our current rate,” Gottlieb said.
  • With airlines slowly restoring flights and more people navigating checkpoints, the federal agency responsible for the safety of the traveling public says it’s going to great lengths to make its screening process safer during the coronavirus pandemic.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is spacing flyers apart in queues, reducing the number of “touchpoints” at the start of screening, putting up plastic barriers at bag-drop points, wiping down bins, and requiring screeners to wear masks.  But TSA is at heart a security agency, and there’s no substitute in its screenings for some person-to-person contact—even though that’s how the novel coronavirus spreads. 
  • Amid the rise in new cases, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar warned Sunday that the “window is closing” to curb the spread of the virus and get the outbreak under control.  In an interview with CNN Azar said “Things are very different from two months ago… So it is a very different situation, but this is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.” He cautioned that if Americans “act irresponsibly, if we don’t socially distance, if we don’t use face coverings in settings where we can’t social distance, if we don’t practice appropriate personal hygiene, we’re going to see spread of disease.”

In the News:

  • New cases of coronavirus continued to surge over the weekend across several U.S. states, mostly in the American South and West, including in Arizona, Florida, Texas and California.  At least 12 states have hit pause on their reopening plans due to the surge in cases. 
  • Americans are downbeat as coronavirus cases spike in many states, a new CBS poll shows.  Only 5 percent said things in America are going “very well,” against 40 percent who said they’re going “very badly,” according to the survey, taken June 23-26.  
  • Total worldwide coronavirus cases topped 10 million yesterday, and more than 500,000 deaths have now been linked to the disease
  • Gilead Sciences announced Monday the pricing for its coronavirus treatment remdesivir, saying it will cost $3,120 for a typical U.S. patient with commercial insurance. The company announced its pricing plans in preparation for it to begin charging for the antiviral drug in July.  The company has been donating doses to the U.S. government for distribution since it received emergency use authorization in May. 
  • The European Union will allow outsiders to enter on July 1, but will bar most travelers from the U.S., Russia and other countries that are considered too risky because they have not controlled their outbreaks.
  • Medical device maker Danaher said on Monday its COVID-19 blood test for detecting if a person had ever been infected with the new coronavirus received emergency use clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The company has shipped the antibody tests to nearly 400 U.S. hospitals and laboratories, and has ramped up production to deliver more than 30 million tests a month.

Amazon is providing full- and part-time workers with a one-time “Thank you” bonus for working during the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced.  Full-time warehouse, delivery and Whole Foods workers will receive a $500 bonus, while part-time workers will get a $250 bonus. Flex drivers who deliver packages for Amazon will receive $150 if they worked more than 10 hours in June. Whole Foods store managers will get a $1,000 bonus, and owners of Amazon’s third-party delivery services will get a $3,000 bonus