Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 2020 #5

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[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.

In Washington:

  • Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, has tested positive for coronavirus. This is the second case of White House staff testing positive since yesterday. Miller is married to White House Trump adviser Stephen Miller.
  • Democrats continue to work on the next stimulus package, which was intended to be released today but has not been finalized yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Committee Chairmen plan to work through the weekend on the bill, which POLITICO estimates has a $2 trillion price tag, intending to bring back the chamber to vote sometime next week. Bi-partisan negotiations have not yet started, and Republicans have yet to signal support for the measure.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is calling for liabilities protections for businesses as new talks begin. Republican lawmakers have great concern about a “litigation epidemic” dealing with COVID-19 pandemic and are working on crafting liability protection to target healthcare workers and front-line workers.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supporting the idea of including “automatic stabilizers” in coronavirus stimulus bills to keep relief programs such as unemployment insurance benefits running without Congress having to repeatedly re-up funding. Automatic stabilizers are usually set with triggers and can be used for programs such as food stamps and federal Medicaid reimbursement rates.
  • The White House is considering another delay in the deadline to file federal taxes and ways to provide economic relief for Americans that can be adopted without legislation from Congress. One proposal being considered is a moratorium on new federal regulations. Another is whether the president can take executive action to protect businesses from lawsuits if employees become infected with the coronavirus while on the job.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first at-home collection, salvia-based coronavirus test. The test , developed by the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory, allows patients to send in self-collected saliva samples. The test must be ordered by a physician.
  • House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) sent a letter signed by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Van Taylor (R-TX), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Ken Buck (R-CO), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Chip Roy (R-TX), Ben Cline (R-VA) and Scott Perry (R-PA) to President Trump praising the administration’s response efforts to COVID-19. They also voiced concerns that policies that allow spending on this scale could threaten the federalist system and urged the President not to support additional funding for state and local governments in the next coronavirus relief bill, arguing that many of the states seeking financial support were economically mismanaged prior to the pandemic.
  • The AP determined that 17 states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah, did not meet a key benchmark set by the White House for loosening up a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. When asked about this, President Donald Trump said, “the governors have great power as to that, given by us. We want them to do that. We rely on them. We trust them. And hopefully they are making the right decisions.”
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to Eric Trump, the Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization seeking information on the Trump Organization’s recent request for financial benefits from domestic and foreign government entities during the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
  • A group of bipartisan Senators including by Sen. Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced legislation allowing companies receiving help from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program would be allowed to write off expenses covered by those loans. Lawmakers say that their intention was always to be able to deduct normal business expenses like wages and rent, but the Treasury and IRS did not agree.
  • According to Bloomberg, House Democrats would like to include $1 billion in the next economic relief package to help low-income Americans pay their broadband bills. They are considering distributing the aid through the FCC’s Lifeline program, or through a new broadband subsidy program.

In the News:

  • The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April with the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7 percent in April the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Unemployment is at its highest level since the Great Depression. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics said, “ it will take until mid-decade before the economy is back to something considered full-employment, a 4 percent to 5 percent unemployment rate.”
  • An Amazon-backed coalition of online retailers has launched an advertising campaign pushing back on President Trump’s calls for the U.S. Postal Service to increase delivery rates for packages. The group, the Package Coalition, is planning to spend over $2 million to garner Republican opposition to the idea. The coalition will run its ads on Wednesday night on Fox News’ “Hannity”.
  • In an interview with Fox Business, Boeing CEO David Calhoun says it could take up to five years for the aviation industry to return to normal traffic levels and resume growth due to the dramatic decrease in travel from COVID-19.
  • Walt Disney World Resort will begin a “phased reopening” of its Disney Springs complex on May 20. Reopening dates for Disney World’s other parks and hotels have not yet been announced. The company is accepting reservations for June 1 and later but said guests would be able to modify bookings if the resort opens sooner or later.
  • Small businesses working on coronavirus-related treatments can get patents in as soon as six months under a new program announced by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A typical patent application takes about 15 months just to get a first response from an examiner.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said Friday that the city is “finally ahead of the virus”. Total hospitalizations are down to 8,196, from more than 18,000 at the peak. The daily death toll is at about 200, down from a high of nearly 800.

[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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