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

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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:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday that White House negotiators seeking a coronavirus relief deal have simply not offered enough money to bring Democrats on board. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday had delivered the White House's latest COVID-19 stimulus offer, which dedicates funding to many of the same areas Democrats want to target, but at much lower levels. On Thursday, Pelosi told reporters the two sides are particularly far apart on tax relief, with Democrats opposing the administration-proposed extension of a tax break for real estate investors included in March’s CARES Act, and Democrats instead insisting on low-income tax credits. Other differences include a child tax credit and additional state and local government aid. Pelosi said that the House will move forward with the vote on their $2.2 trillion HEROES 2.0 proposal. She said she expects the White House to return with “some counter” offer and emphasized that the parties will continue to talk. Lawmakers will be leaving Washington to campaigning in their home states. The Speaker will call them back if some kind of deal is reached before the election.
  • President Trump on Thursday, signed a bill to keep the government running into December. The Senate passed the temporary spending bill Wednesday in an 84-10 vote, following House approval. The President did not sign the bill before the 12 a.m. Thursday deadline to fund the government, and U.S. spending authority temporarily lapsed. The Office of Management and Budget did not order agencies to cease operations.
  • In an interview on Sept. 30, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke out against President Trump’s misrepresentation of the Director’s stance on mask use during the pandemic. During Tuesday's presidential debate, Trump claimed that Fauci initially said, “masks are not good – then he changed his mind.” When Joe Biden said wearing masks could save tens of thousands of lives, Trump contended, “Dr. Fauci said the opposite.” Fauci responded, “Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months knows that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks.” Fauci explained that “very early on in the pandemic,” authorities did not recommend masks to the general public because they were worried about shortages.
  • Health and Human Services announced Thursday that the federal government will be relinquishing its dissemination to Gilead and commercial distributors. The agency says there is enough availability to meet. The federal government had overseen the drug’s distribution since the FDA authorized it for emergency use in May.
  • A group of more than 70 high-profile Hollywood directors, producers, and writers — including Clint Eastwood, Sofia Coppola, and Judd Apatow — has urged Congress to help movie theaters hit by the pandemic. In a letter sent Wednesday to both chambers’ leadership, the signers, along with the National Association of Theater Owners, the Directors Guild of America, and the Motion Picture Association, said theaters are in "dire straits" due to COVID-19. The letter urges Congress to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act, which passed this spring, "to proposals that help businesses that have suffered the steepest revenue drops due to the pandemic" or to "enact new proposals such as the RESTART Act."

In the News:

  • American and United Airlines proceeded with cutting 32,000 jobs after Congress failed to reach a new deal on federal aid plans. Delta has been able to delay job cuts for now, but CEO Ed Bastian says they may have to furlough 1,900 pilots in the future if Congress doesn’t reach a stimulus deal.
    • Additional job cuts announced in the past 24 hours include:
      • Allstate Corp: 3,800
      • Goldman Sachs: 400
      • Royal Dutch Shell: 9,000
      • Continental AG: 30,000 worldwide
      • Disney: 28,000
      • Halliburton: Eliminating a layer of management
      • Marathon Petroleum: Second round of 2,050
  • Wisconsin leaders and health experts are warning about an alarming number of COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. On Sept. 30, the state saw 28 deaths. Hospital directors in the Green Bay areas said, “This spike we're seeing in Brown County, Wisconsin, should be a wake-up call to anyone who lives here that our community is facing a crisis.”
  • The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a hot housing market in September. Homes sold 12 days faster than they did a year ago, according to Realtor.com. Homes usually sell 25 percent faster in September than at the start of the year, but this year they sold 39 percent faster. “Remote learning and the desire for more space continued to fuel buyer interest in September,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. Increases in homes sales speed were greatest in the Northeast, at 13 days, and lowest in the West, at seven days.
  • Fiat Chrysler and General Motor’s auto sales fell in the third quarter, but both automakers saw a significant rebound from the pandemic-wracked second quarter. Fiat Chrysler’s sales fell 10 percent from a year ago, but they jumped 38 percent from the second to third quarter. GM reported a 9.9 percent third-quarter decline from a year ago but with improvement each month. Industry forecasters expect domestic U.S. auto sales to show improvements from the second quarter but remain down between 11 and 13 percent from the third quarter of 2019.
  • The average fast food drive-thru wait time is up 29 seconds across 10 chains nationwide, which represents a significant increase, according to an study conducted by SeeLevel HX. The coronavirus pandemic has shifted consumer preferences in favor of drive-thru options, which consumers perceive as safer. Drive-thru visits increased by 26 percent in April, May, and June, according to data from the NPD Group.
  • A comprehensive study on the misinformation on COVID-19 by the Cornell University Alliance for Science finds that President Trump is the “single largest driver” of COVID-19 misinformation with as mentions of Donald Trump “comprised 37.9% of the overall misinformation conversation.". Researchers analyzed over 38 million English-language media articles from Jan 1 through May 26 and found that more than 1.1 million contained misinformation.

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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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