Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, December 2020 # 10

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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:

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers is splitting its $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal into two packages. The plan reportedly will include a $160 billion proposal that ties together the two most controversial elements: more money for state and local governments and legal immunity against coronavirus-related lawsuits. The second proposal will total $748 billion and include less controversial ideas, including another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding for small businesses, unemployment benefits, and more money for vaccine distribution, testing and schools. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), says they would release text on Monday.
  • Speaker Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about COVID-19 relief on Sunday and had another meeting planned for Monday. Pelosi remains in support of additional state and local funding and notes that with vaccine distribution starting, the funding is needed more than ever. When asked by reporters if the funding was a “red line” she refused to say, but replied, “We are in negotiations.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he was awaiting the bill’s legislative text from the bipartisan group saying the Democrats were committed to getting another round of emergency relief to Americans by the end of the year.
  • President Trump said Sunday that White House staffers should not be among the first in the country to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A White House official confirmed earlier Sunday a plan to prioritize those working close to the president for vaccinations, generating swift political backlash. But Trump later tweeted, “[p]eople working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” adding, “I have asked that this adjustment be made.” Trump said he’d get the vaccine at a future “appropriate time.”
  • The Electoral College completed their meetings in each state across the country today, officially electing Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States. The electors met amid tightened public health measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Electors nationwide received coronavirus tests, wore masks to vote, and observed social distancing.
  • Senate Democrats are pressuring the Trump administration to explain the current supply status of vaccines in the U.S. The senators are concerned the U.S. might be facing a COVID-19 vaccine shortage after news that the White House passed on Pfizer’s repeated offers to purchase additional doses.
  • Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and his nonprofit group, Humanity Forward, are lobbying more than 60 lawmakers to provide stimulus checks to Americans. In response, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) of Delaware and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) last week introduced a bill (H.R. 8893) that would provide one-time direct payments similar to those in the previously approved CARES Act. Individuals would receive $1,000 while couples would get $2,000, and each dependent would get $1,000. The cash payment would be less for individuals making at least $75,000 or for joint filers who make $150,000 or more. The bill has over 22 cosponsors, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the No. 5 House Democratic. The bill mirrors the legislation introduced by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week. It remains in question if these Members will start making demands that would put the possible breakthrough in relief talks into jeopardy.

In the News:

  • The first COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. began Monday morning. New York’s first vaccination was administered on Monday to intensive care unit nurse Sandra Lindsay. Lindsay’s vaccination is the first or among the first coronavirus vaccinations in the United States outside of a clinical trial. Lindsay received the Pfizer vaccine through a shot in her arm, broadcast on TV. "It didn't feel any different from taking any other vaccine," Lindsay reported. U.S. officials estimate about 20 million people could be vaccinated in December, beginning with health care workers and people in nursing homes.
  • New Zealand and Australia will share a "travel bubble” in which travelers between the two countries will not be required to quarantine in the first quarter of 2021, officials announced Monday. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the deal still requires confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant worsening of the coronavirus pandemic in either nation.
  • The U.S. reached another wrenching milestone as more than 300,000 people with the coronavirus in the U.S. have died. The new record comes less than four weeks after the nation’s virus deaths reached a quarter-million.

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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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