Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 2021

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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:

  • The Senate will vote this week on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said Monday. The Senate is expected to make changes to the bill, including stripping out a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. The Senate will also conduct a marathon voting session known as vote-a-rama, where any senator can force a vote on an amendment. Senators are mulling a potential phase-out of a third round of stimulus checks. Due to the Senate’s changes, the House must re-pass the bill before it goes to President Biden.
  • Nearly two dozen House progressives on Monday called on Vice President Harris to overturn the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that a $15 minimum wage could not be included in the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. “Eighty-one million people cast their ballots to elect you on a platform that called for a $15 minimum wage,” the members wrote in a letter led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). Progressives want Harris, the President of the Senate, to overrule the parliamentarian, a move requiring support from at least 50 other senators. But Biden and Senate No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin (D-IL) said they’ll respect the parliamentarian’s ruling.
  • The Senate Finance Committee will vote on the nomination of Xavier Becerra on Wednesday, March 3 at 10 a.m.
  • In a now-familiar pattern, COVID-19 cases have declined, many states have eased restrictions in response, and cases stopped declining. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday warned states against slackening restrictions, pointing to spreading variants and the "stalling" of recent new case declines at 70,000 per day. "With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19," she said.
  • In a real “WWFD?” moment, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said that he would take the newly approved Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and urged Americans to take whichever vaccine shot is available to them.  The FDA approved J&J’s vaccine on Saturday. “All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
  • National Institutes on Allergies and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday that children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022."  Some companies are beginning to start trials to study the vaccine’s safety in children.  Fauci added that he expects high school kids should be able to get the vaccine "sometime this fall. I'm not sure it'll exactly be on the first day that school opens, but pretty close to that."
  • On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden would not consider Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s expected request that the U.S. share its coronavirus vaccine supply with Mexico.   President Biden met with López Obrador met Monday afternoon.  

In the News:

  • Just over 2.4 million coronavirus vaccinations were reported to the CDC on Sunday, matching Saturday's record-high for inoculations as seen in Bloomberg's vaccine tracker. 
  • According to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, 41 percent of voters said they are unwilling to get the coronavirus vaccine, with 59 percent saying they are willing. Among the unwilling, 66 percent said they were concerned about side effects, while another 33 percent said they did not believe it was effective. Twenty-seven percent said they were not concerned about coronavirus. 
  • Finnish officials declared a nationwide state of emergency Monday as infections from more contagious coronavirus variants surge. Finland has sealed its borders, and the state of emergency authorizes the government to curtail travel between regions and force schools to close, Reuters reported. New cases have surged in recent weeks, particularly among shipping yard and construction workers and skiefrs in Lapland, according to the news service.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is under mounting political pressure amid accusations that his administration misconstrued COVID-19 nursing home death data. Following the data allegations, two women accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, and state legislators accused the governor of bullying, including threatening a lawmaker backing the coronavirus accusations. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said Monday she would investigate the harassment allegations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday called the accusations serious and endorsed an investigation.

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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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