[author: Shelley Castle]
Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines provided by the Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs team.
- COVID-19 has forced lawmakers to think outside the box in how they work remotely during the crisis. Over 50 Democrats have signaled they plan to use proxy voting to cast a vote on the floor today. Via this system, one member in the Capitol can cast proxy votes on behalf of as many as 10 members who stayed home. Late yesterday, House Republicans filed a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a bid to block the new system. Republicans argue proxy voting, which was passed by Democrats with no GOP support, is unconstitutional and that Congress has an obligation to meet in person, despite the risks. Democrats defended their decision to vote by proxy, saying it was a common-sense move that would minimize the risk to lawmakers and their staff, as well as people they come in contact with while traveling. GOP leadership has been encouraging House Republicans to not use the proxy voting system and instead submit statements to the Congressional Record if they can’t be in the Capitol and want to register how they would have voted.
- The Justice Department is closing investigations into Senators Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), James Inhofe(R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for stock trades made shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the lawmakers have denied any impropriety in the trading and said their investment advisers made the trades which they learned of after the fact. A similar investigation into Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) will continue as he had more direct involvement with the stock trades.
- Today, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that the city will officially enter phase one of reopening on Friday, May 29. Bowser says the city has sustained a 14-day decline of new COVID-19 cases, and other metrics have been met to safely begin to slowly reopen the city and lift the stay-at-home order effective Friday. Hospitals have been running below their maximum capacity, testing is on the rise and the city is in the process of hiring enough contact tracers to identify and quarantine residents exposed to the virus. However, District officials have changed their approach to calculating the spread of the virus and are no longer mentioning other reopening metrics they laid out last month, including a declining rate in people testing positive and a decrease in flu-like illnesses among residents who might not have been tested.
- Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee he’s concerned about America’s small and medium-sized firms tipping into bankruptcy and destroying the “work of many families and generations.” The central bank is tasked with avoiding that outcome through its Main Street lending program approved by Congress, but it’s still not operational.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for COVID-19 antibody tests saying “test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace” as they are not accurate enough to make important policy decisions.
- Last month, Anthony Fauci, said that a second wave of COVID-19 was indeed unavoidable. Yesterday, he said that a second wave of coronavirus infections is “not inevitable” if people are vigilant about proper mitigation efforts.
- The USDA began taking applications Tuesday for $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers adversely affected by disruptions to the economy related to the pandemic. The National Potato Council urged its members to apply this week for COVID-19 aid while it works to increase Agriculture Department payments to potato growers and tries to sell Congress on a plan to buy $300 million of surplus spuds.
- The National Air Carrier Association sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao today asking her to “oppose any federal regulatory efforts to impose arbitrary capacity limitations on aircraft, including restricting the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing.”
In the News:
- John Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker is currently at nearly 99,000 U.S. deaths as the death toll due to coronavirus is expected to reach 100,000 today.
- The stock market was up 2 percent Tuesday and is pointed up again today as investors have cheered economies reopening, as well as a potential COVID-19 vaccine
- Amtrak is preparing to cut up to 20 percent of its workforce in the next fiscal year as the company continues to suffer a decline in ridership due to COVID-19.
- The European Commission unveiled a 750 billion euros ($826 billion) recovery stimulus plan to jumpstart the economy of the eurozone. The proposal would be funded by raising capital from financial markets which would then be made available as grants and loans to countries in the eurozone.
- Disney World in Florida, one of the world’s largest tourist sites with roughly 50 million visitors annually, will reopen to visitors on a limited basis in mid-July.
- As Mexico’s health-care system has strained under the coronavirus, small community hospitals in Southern California have been flooded with dual citizens, Americans working in Mexico, or visiting families who have fallen ill and crossed the border.
- Boeing will lay off nearly 7,000 employees this week in an effort to slash costs as COVID-19 continues to devastate the air travel and aerospace industries. The aircraft manufacturer previously said it is seeking to decrease its headcount by 10 percent through voluntary and involuntary separations from the company.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that it remains unclear whether people who have been infected with the coronavirus are at risk of becoming infected again. “The jury is still very much out on that,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.