Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 #11

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Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines from Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs practice.

In Washington:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) set a Tuesday deadline for her and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reconcile significant policy disputes if they want to pass a coronavirus relief bill before Election Day. On Monday, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for nearly an hour. According to a Tweet from Pelosi’s spokesperson, Drew Hammill, they continued to “narrow their differences” and will continue talks through Tuesday. Pelosi has directed House committee chairs to work to resolve areas of disagreement with the White House, and the speaker and Mnuchin plan to speak again Tuesday, Hammill added. “The Speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” he said. Among the sticking points in negotiations: state and local aid, money for child care, earned income tax credits and health care provisions. After months of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans remain billions of dollars apart in their proposals. Democrats want about US$2.2 trillion in funding, and the White House has proposed about US$1.8 trillion.
    • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday told reporters that he is hopeful a deal can be reached soon, but cautioned that it's "too early to tell" whether enough Republicans in the Senate would support a large spending package.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the weekend announced that the Senate would vote on an additional round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on Tuesday and then would revote on Wednesday on a $500 billion stimulus program which was blocked in September. Neither is likely to get enough votes to advance. In a statement posted to Twitter, McConnell blamed House Speaker Pelosi for failing to negotiate with Senate Republicans to secure a deal.
  • Senate Democrats are calling on congressional leadership to implement an updated coronavirus testing plan at the Capitol after a recent outbreak. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and nearly two dozen senators sent a letter on Monday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Pelosi saying that the environment within the Capitol "has created vulnerabilities" for those in the building every day. "With 123 positive cases amongst Legislative Branch employees or contractors, it is critical that everyone has access to and the assurance of strong testing protocols to prevent the unidentified spread that has occurred in several instances over the past few months. Failing to provide this testing puts everybody within the Capitol complex at risk,” the senators wrote.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, says that a nationwide lockdown may not be the best COVID-19 solution even as cases rise during the fall and winter. Speaking on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Fauci said outbreaks would have to “get really, really bad” before he would advocate for a national lockdown. Instead, Fauci said the emphasis remains on practicing now-familiar public health measures like wearing masks, physically distancing and washing hands frequently — key steps in controlling virus transmission.
  • President Trump defended his record on managing the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, and took aim at his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Trump told supporters in Carson City, Nevada that Biden would surrender the “future to the virus,” saying, “He’s gonna want to lockdown.” “He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump said, adding “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression instead — we’re like a rocket ship.” Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates fired back on Sunday, saying “Trump crashed the strong economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden Administration by lying about and attacking the science, and layoffs are rising.”

In the News:

  • There are now more than 40 million COVID-19 cases globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. Experts warn that the recent surge in cases could be a sign of a “second wave” of the pandemic following less stringent lockdowns across many countries.
  • Coronavirus hospitalizations across the U.S. had increased by 5 percent in 37 states as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by the Covid Tracking Project.
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced via Twitter that it screened 1,031,505 people at security checkpoints nationwide on Sunday, the first time the threshold has been reached in seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that amount is 60 percent lower than this time a year ago.
  • CVS Health on Monday said it plans to immediately hire 15,000 employees to prepare for an expected rise in COVID-19 and flu cases this fall and winter.
  • The U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders will remain closed to all non-essential travel until November 21, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said Monday. It comes as the U.S. remains one of the worst affected countries in the world and is reporting the second highest number of new cases daily.
  • Homebuilder sentiment set a record high for the second month in a row, jumping to 85 in October on the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. September and October are the first two months the index has ever been above 80.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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