Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – August 2020 #7

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In Washington

  • The blame game between Democrats and Republicans continues as each side signals they want a deal, but negotiations on a Phase Four coronavirus package remain stalled. POLITICO reports that the White House believes they have gained the upper hand in the negotiations putting the Democrats in a “real pickle” by issuing executive orders. Trump’s executive actions continue to get a lukewarm response from both Democrats and Republicans as more is revealed about the policy’s implementation and more analysis is showing questioning the usefulness and timing to provide the benefits. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to wait for White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to agree to meet them in the middle after offering last week to bring the bill within the US$2-2.4 trillion range. State and local aid continue to be a major sticking point. POLITICO reported that Democrats offered concessions in this area, but no further information is available. If Democrats made the offer and Republicans rejected it, this could be an even more contentious negotiating area in the future.
  • Monday, the National Governors Association called on Congress to come together on a quick resolution and provide US$500 billion in unrestricted state aid. US governors raise concerns about implementing Trump’s coronavirus relief executive orders and call on Congress to rectify the issue. A statement was issued by the National Governors Association, which pointed to “significant administrative burdens and costs” for individual states if the executive orders are executed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York (D), whose comments have been echoed by other governors, said: “When you are in a hole, stop digging. This executive order only digs the hole deeper.” He also added that Trump’s orders would cost the state of New York in excuses of US$4 billion. The National League of Cities is also asking for US$500 billion in aid.
  • President Trump is considering banning American citizens from re-entering the US if they are suspected of having coronavirus, a newly drafted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulation has revealed. The regulation, which draws on existing powers, says that the U.S. can prohibit a citizen or legal resident from crossing the country’s border if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease,” also making clear that any decision to block someone reentering the country must “include appropriate protections to ensure that no constitutional rights are infringed.”
  • More than a hundred House lawmakers wrote a letter to President Trump, calling on him to reverse proposals to cut the 25 percent of federal funding for most states’ National Guard troops working on coronavirus relief. A small group of Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues on the letter as well as chairs of the Appropriations, Budget, Intelligence and Rules. The letter also condemns the President’s choice to single out and treat states like Florida and Texas differently by exempting them from losing the funding. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) led thirty-four senators in a similar letter yesterday.
  • The Agriculture Department is extending to 11 Sept. the deadline for farmers to apply for payments from its US$16 billion COVID-19 aid program and is expanding eligible crops, livestock and aquaculture. USDA has paid out nearly US$7 billion from the program.
  • White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Deborah Birx warned governors that there are still concerns about the conditions in many metro areas including Houston, Atlanta, Baton Rouge and St. Louis. Birx also said White House is weighing making public its charts that divide counties into red, yellow and green zones based on case counts and positivity rates. Those graphics have been provided regularly to governors, but haven’t yet been released publicly by the administration.

In the News

  • Russia has approved the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said today while speaking at a government meeting on state media television. The vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Russia and expects tens of thousands of vaccinations to follow.
  • The Big Ten conference confirmed today that it will postpone all its fall sports for its 2020 season due to the coronavirus. The league is the first of the major conference to abandon plans for games this Fall.
  • Illinois has made it a felony to assault any worker that is enforcing a businesses’ face mask policy. An aggravated battery charge can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison.
  • The American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), a group that favors tough antitrust regulation, is partnering with restaurants in launching a campaign today seeking for state and local governments to limit the amount of fees and commissions that online delivery apps such as Grubhub, Uber Eats, and other companies such as Postmates and DoorDash can charge. AELP accuses the companies of using anti-competitive and predatory business practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Schools are starting to see emerging clusters of outbreaks, raising concerns about wider community spread. Last week, a small community in Birmingham, AL, had to quarantine the entire high school football team. Today, a school in Cherokee Co., GA, ordered the quarantine of 826 students and 42 staff members.

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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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