Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 15

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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:

  • After several consecutive days of talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin it appears increasingly likely that Congress will have to wait to consider any COVID-19 stimulus package until the post-election lame-duck session. On Thursday, Pelosi said both sides were trading paper back and forth, but with massive sticking points still outstanding. Pelosi continued to express optimism Friday about a potential deal during an interview with MSNBC saying “we’re writing the bill, and hopefully we’ll be able to resolve some of the differences.” She continued “We could be very close. As I say, we’re close enough to put pen to paper.” However, both sides remain divided over funding levels for education and unemployment benefits, how to structure state and local funding, and how to divide money for contact tracing and testing to ensure it is equitable. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows blamed Pelosi during an interview with CNN on Friday, claiming that the Speaker continues to move goalposts on a stimulus package. “I must say that I’ve been here before and when we agree to something it seems like the goal posts get moved back and it gets moved back again, it changes each and every time,” Meadows said. “We’re gonna stay engaged until Nancy Pelosi says no or walks away,” he added.
  • Top Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are questioning whether the IRS is ready for the next tax season. Due to the pandemic, the IRS postponed the 2020 regular tax filing deadline, moved to remote work, and now faces a backlog of tax returns to process, all while preparing for next year’s filing season. In a Thursday letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and oversight subcommittee chairman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) noted delayed processing of returns and refunds, and asked Rettig if next year's filing season will start on time. Rettig said in written congressional hearing testimony earlier this month that the IRS has been preparing for next year's filing season for months.
  • Travel industry groups called on the Trump administration to promote more travel by foregoing quarantines and travel bans. Groups including Airlines for America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Secretaries of Transportation, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. The groups said the patchwork of 18 different state travel quarantines is “confusing and discourages travel.” The groups instead urged pre-travel testing and contact tracing, as well as greater coordination between governors and foreign governments.
  • President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden clashed over the proper response to the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday night during their final presidential debate. Biden criticized Trump for what he says is a failure to take responsibility and for the high death toll in the U.S. Trump defended his administration’s response to the pandemic, referring to the many European nations that are also experiencing a coronavirus spike and casting Biden and fellow Democrats as too willing to seek wide-scale shutdowns.

In the News:

  • The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a daily count nearing record highs set in late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Six states hit record highs of daily new deaths on a seven-day average Thursday, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Among them are Kansas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • Drugmaker AstraZeneca will resume the trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine in the U.S., which has been on hold since September. The company said the FDA authorized the restart Thursday after reviewing all of the global safety data and concluding it was safe to resume. The trial had already resumed in other countries.
  • The FDA approved Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment on Thursday, making it the first drug to receive the blanket green light. The treatment had previously received emergency use authorization, and was among the earliest to be used for hospitalized patients.
  • Poland will limit public gatherings to no more than five people, shutter bars and restaurants, and move many students to remote learning as COVID-19 cases spike around the country. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the new measures on Friday after Poland hit a daily record of more than 13,600 cases.
  • A report released this week from the University of Minnesota finds that 29 out of 40 drug treatments for COVID-19 are experiencing shortages, including propofol, albuterol, midazolam, hydroxychloroquine, fentanyl, azithromycin, and morphine, citing data from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that 45 percent of the drug treatments are on its official drug shortage list.
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced a 10 p.m. curfew on nonessential businesses in the city due to a surge in daily new coronavirus cases. The city is experiencing 640 new cases of coronavirus a day, an increase of more than 54 percent in the past week.

[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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