Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, November 2020 # 2

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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:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined a busy lame-duck session agenda Wednesday, saying he wants another coronavirus relief bill by the end of the year and a spending bill by the December 11 government funding deadline. McConnell told reporters that a coronavirus deal is “job one when we get back," adding that the Senate would reconvene on Monday. He also placed additional state and local aid on the negotiating table, saying, "we need to sit down and work this out. State and local could end up being a part of it." McConnell also said he and Speaker Pelosi both want a full-year spending deal for the 12 government funding bills instead of a short-term continuing resolution. Republicans are in a strong position to hold the Senate, though several races remain uncalled as of early Wednesday afternoon the Georgia special election, is going to a January run off. Prospects for a relief deal will continue to shift based on Senate and presidential election results.
  • Four in 10 voters named the COVID-19 pandemic as their top issue in the presidential race, according to the Associated Press VoteCast. Another three in 10 said the economy and jobs were most important. Voters were more likely to say that the government should focus on limiting the spread of the virus, even if it damages the economy, than to say the economy should be prioritized above all else. About half of voters said the pandemic isn't at all under control, and six in 10 said the economy is in poor shape. An overwhelming majority said that the virus has impacted them personally, and about two in 10 said a close friend or family member has died from the virus.
  • Litigation over the COVID-19-prompted surge in mail-in balloting continues post-election. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said Wednesday that it completed court-ordered sweeps of postal facilities for over 300,000 ballots late Tuesday. But the Service admitted to missing the 3 pm Tuesday deadline to do so. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, said Tuesday that it appeared the USPS failed to comply with his order, and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday afternoon on the matter. The USPS said the deadline was too difficult to meet. The order included areas covering swing states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Each of those states, with the exception of Pennsylvania and Texas, require mail ballots to be received by the time polls closed on Election Day, meaning late-arriving ballots would not be counted.
  • As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the U.S., many of the hardest-hit states are declining to take action to slow the spread, the New York Times reports. Governors, particularly Republicans, are resisting many types of recommended restrictions. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has written that "there is no way to stop the virus." In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) said that when it comes to saving lives, "it's not a job for government, this is a job for everybody." Taking the opposite view, top White House coronavirus advisor Deborah Birx "sounded alarms Monday about a new and deadly phase in the health crisis, pleading with top administration officials for 'much more aggressive action.’”

In the News:

  • The U.S. reported its second-highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases on Election Day, when many Americans were motivated to vote based on the candidates’ pandemic-related plans. More than 91,000 new cases were reported Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The highest count was reported Friday, with more than 99,000 new cases.
  • New York City's coronavirus case metrics are "cause for concern," Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday. The city reported 628 new cases on a seven-day average. Mayor de Blasio said 114 people with COVID-19 had been admitted to hospitals in the city -- a "much higher number than we’ve seen typically."
  • U.S. cruise lines have canceled sailings through at least the end of the year because of new COVID-19 related safety guidelines. The companies include Carnival Corp., which sails under the brands Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard North America, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn; Royal Caribbean Group, which sails under the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and Azamara brands; and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which sails under the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.
  • South Korea approved a combined COVID-19 and seasonal influenza test, allowing health officials to check for both illnesses using the same sample. The dual sample will help prevent disruptions at medical facilities as the pandemic enters the flu season, The Associated Press reported.
  • Sweden on Tuesday joined the UK, France, Germany, and other European countries in announcing new COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge across the continent. Sweden has been notable for having a more relaxed approach to the pandemic. But Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced that starting Tuesday people in 21 regions, or 70 percent of the population, must avoid physical contact with those outside their households, among other measures, per Bloomberg.

[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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