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Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – July 1, 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:

  • Senate Republicans are beginning to put together their own fifth COVID-19 aid package, but with no apparent Democratic involvement it’s unlikely to receive enough support to pass both chambers, according to Roll Call.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday told reporters “What I can tell you without fear of contradiction is the focus will be kids, jobs and health care,” and said “any bill that passes the Senate will have liability protections in it.” One section of that package is already being drafted, according to Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO).  He told reporters that he’s directed the panel to begin working on legislation that would provide funding for more testing, additional work on therapeutics and vaccine research.  “A month from now we should be in the final stages of getting that bill together,” Blunt said.  But moving the bill through Congress, particularly before the August recess, is unlikely without the support of Democrats, who passed their own bill in the House last month and have urged McConnell to start bipartisan negotiations.
  • The House is set to vote Wednesday on a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan, H.R. 2, the “Moving Forward Act” that would provide billions to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals. It would also require states to commit to reducing greenhouse gases and other climate measures in order to receive funding.  President Trump has threatened to veto the bill but it’s likely won’t even make it to the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Wednesday that the infrastructure bill will not be taken up in the Senate.
  • On Tuesday, the Senate cleared legislation to extend the deadline for businesses to apply for coronavirus aid under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  Under the bill, the deadline would be extended until Aug. 8.  There’s approximately $130 billion in unspent money under the PPP which has prompted a discussion among lawmakers about what to do with the funds. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, today to meet with Gov. Doug Ducey (R) about the state’s recent rise in coronavirus cases.  Cases have been spiking in Arizona, and last week, Ducey said the state’s reopening plans are now “on pause” as a result.  Bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and tubing are closed for at least 30 days.  Arizona has reported nearly 80,000 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began and more than 1,600 deaths.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Tuesday that the administration wants the next round of economic aid to focus on supporting businesses like restaurants that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis.  Mnuchin said he is already talking to lawmakers about getting another round of relief approved by the end of July.  He said those discussions included ways to use leftover funds from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed 
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday laid out its final guidance for developers of a coronavirus vaccine. The agency will require that any vaccine candidate be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo to meet its approval standards 

In the News:

  • As of Tuesday, at least 35 states are seeing increases in daily coronavirus cases and  the U.S. is reporting around 40,000 new cases a day.  The inclines are particularly steep in southern states, including Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.  As a result, at least 18 states and cities are rolling back reopening plans.
  • Official Covid-19 death counts in the U.S. may underestimate the full rise in fatalities linked with the pandemic, according to a new study published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.  The study found that the number of excess deaths that have occurred so far during the pandemic, between March and May, is actually 28 percent higher than the nation’s official number of deaths. 
  • In June, companies continued to bring workers back from their pandemic furlough as the national economy slowly came back to life.  Private payrolls grew by 2.369 million for the month, a bit lower than the 2.5 million expectation from economists, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics.
  • United Airlines is planning to add about 25,000 flights in August, hoping to capitalize on an uptick in air travel. The Chicago-based carrier and its competitors are seeing an increase in travel demand from the five-decade lows hit in April
  • Airbus announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs over the next year as part of its biggest restructuring ever.
  • Pfizer released positive results from an early-stage human trial testing its coronavirus vaccine candidate. The company said one of its four coronavirus vaccine candidates produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe is necessary to build immunity to the virus, in all participants, according to the preliminary data. 
  • Google announced Tuesday its U.S. offices will remain closed until Sept 7 due to rising coronavirus cases in some states.  The company was originally planning to reopen some buildings at roughly 10 percent capacity in July with the possibility to increase capacity to 30 percent in September.