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COVID-19: Federal Update (9/21)

Quick Takes

— HOUSE AWAITS CR TEXT AS GOVERNMENT FUNDING DEADLINE APPROACHES. There are fewer than 10 days remaining until the government funding deadline.

— HOUSE LOOKS TO CLEAR MORE THAN 40 SUSPENSION BILLS. House lawmakers will convene today to consider more than 40 bills under suspension of the rule out of the Natural Resources, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Judiciary Committees.

— PENTAGON OPENS DOOR TO 5G NETWORK SHARED WITH CIVILIAN PHONES. U.S. officials are exploring concepts for a new 5G wireless network that would let Silicon Valley giants and other businesses tap valuable Pentagon airwaves.

— CMS RELEASES INFORMATION ON COVERAGE FOR COVID-19 TESTING. The information is designed to help states, nursing facilities, and other providers better understand the sources of Medicare and Medicaid coverage and payment for COVID-19 testing.

Capitol Hill Update

— HOUSE AWAITS CR TEXT AS GOVERNMENT FUNDING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Congress will convene today with less than 10 days remaining until the government funding deadline. Congressional leadership is hopeful that lawmakers will be able to take up and pass a continuing resolution (CR) this week that would avert a shutdown on Sept. 30th, but the talks have hit a snag over various lingering issues. Funding for agriculture relief payments, election security, and COVID-19 relief, and the overall length of the stopgap funding measure stand out as key sticking points that have delayed the measure's official introduction thus far. House Democratic leadership is hopeful they can file the text early this week, but that deadline could end up slipping if the two sides are unable to bridge these differences.

— SCOTUS NOMINATION FIGHT LOOMS FOLLOWING DEATH OF JUSTICE GINSBURG. With 43 days until the 2020 presidential election, Senators will be gearing up for a politically fraught Supreme Court confirmation process following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday. President Donald Trump is expected to name a replacement for the late Justice Ginsburg toward the end of the week, pushing for a confirmation vote ahead of the Nov. 3 elections. Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa, and Alison Jones Rushing are names that have emerged from the Trump administration’s inner circle as potential picks to fill the vacant seat.

— HOUSE LOOKS TO CLEAR MORE THAN 40 SUSPENSION BILLS. House lawmakers will convene today to consider more than 40 bills under suspension of the rule out of the Natural Resources, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Judiciary Committees. This includes a host of pandemic-related measures that would: (1) establish a Consumer and Investor Fraud Working Group to help protect consumers and investors from fraud during the COVID–19 pandemic (H.R. 6735); (2) facilitate data sharing requirements for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) aimed at protecting homeless populations from infection (H.R. 6294); and (3) bolster the Strategic National Stockpile (H.R. 7574). The House will also take up an Energy and Commerce measure that would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue reports after activation of the Disaster Information Reporting System and to make improvements to network outage reporting.

Washington Insider: What We're Reading

U.S. officials are exploring concepts for a new 5G wireless network that would let Silicon Valley giants and other businesses tap valuable Pentagon airwaves, setting up a potential clash over how to deploy the next-generation technology. The Department of Defense issued a request for information Friday that could open the door for investors to bid on contracts to build a domestic cellular network for both the military and for commercial operators. That dual-use structure would allow companies to link connected cars, factories and hospitals over ultrafast fifth-generation signals without bidding for the licenses at auction.

The U.S. reported 39,844 new coronavirus cases Sunday and was closing in on 200,000 deaths, amid fears that the country was heading for a new wave of infections. Twelve states reported at least 1,000 new confirmed cases on Saturday, led by California with 3,822 and Texas with 3,377.

One person with COVID-19 infected 15 others during a long-haul flight from London to Vietnam in early March, according to a new analysis. The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released ahead of its final publication in November, is one of the first to analyze the dangers of in-flight transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While the airline industry has judged the risk for in-flight transmission to be very low, the researchers noted that long flights in particular have become a matter of increasing concern as many countries have started lifting flight restrictions despite ongoing the ongoing pandemic.

Rollbacks put forth by the Trump administration could cause the release of an extra 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, according to a new analysis. The report, from Rhodium Group noted that the excess 1.8 billion tons of what’s known as carbon dioxide equivalent would equal about one-third of the country’s total emissions from 2019.

2020 Election State of Play

TRUMP VS. BIDEN. With 43 days until the 2020 election, current polling projects a close, hard fought race for the White House in the fall Recently, Vice President Biden has shown a consistent lead in national polls, as well as a slight edge in key swing state polls such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida, The Democratic nominee is also demonstrating strong poll numbers in traditionally red states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Meanwhile, President Trump is pushing to expand the map in states his campaign sees as potential blue-to-red flips, including Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

· RCP Aggregate: Biden +6.5 percent (source)

· 538 Aggregate: Biden +6.8 percent (source)

· PredictIt Market: Biden (58¢) Trump (45¢) (source)

· Gallup POTUS Approval (9/13): 42 percent (source)

What policies has Vice President Biden championed during his 2020 presidential bid? Check out TRP's analysis of the Democratic nominee's health and economic policy platforms.

What policies has Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) championed during her time in the Senate and on the campaign trail? Check out TRP's analysis of the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee's health care and financial services policy platforms.

—SENATE OUTLOOK. The Senate currently features a 53-47 Republican majority. With 23 out of the 35 seats up this cycle held by Republicans, Democrats are statistically well-positioned to narrow or even flip the Senate GOP Majority. According to current political forecasts, the seat most likely to flip this fall is Alabama’s, held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). If that happens, Democrats need to win four GOP-held Senate seats to reach a 50-50 tie, in which case control would rest with the president’s party. As of today, there is a widespread consensus that there are four races that may effectively decide the majority: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina are the seats that Democrats see as their best chance of flipping. However, Democrats are also eyeing seats in Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Texas, and Kansas as potential long-shot flips.

HOUSE OUTLOOK. Democrats are currently favored to keep their House majority, and have maintained a consistent lead in generic ballot polling since 2018, according to polls aggregated by RCP and 538. While Republicans could end up flipping some of the 30 Democratic districts that voted for President Trump in 2016, redistricting in North Carolina — as well as the retirements of Republican lawmakers in tossup districts in Texas, Georgia, and Iowa — leaves the GOP with a slim margin of error in their push to trim or flip the House Democratic majority.

· 538 Aggregate: Democrats +6.2 percent (source)

· RCP Aggregate: Democrats +6.0 percent (source)

Which lawmakers will not be returning for the next Congress? Stay informed and get ahead of the game on the changing landscape in Washington with the TRP Congressional Casualty List.

COVID-19: What We're Hearing

— HOUSE REPUBLICANS PRESS FOR ACTION ON PPP. House GOP lawmakers are formulating a strategy to bring a bill to the floor that would extend and reform the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Sponsored by Small Business Committee Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH), the legislation would extend the signature small business rescue program through the end of the year, creating an opportunity for a second PPP loan for small businesses, nonprofits, independent contractors, and sole proprietors should they meet eligibility criteria outlined in the bill. The measure would also: (1) allot $25 billion for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees; (2) expand on the list of covered expenses; and (3) clarify the forgiveness process for smaller loans, both below $150,000 and between $150,000 and $2 million.

  • Next Steps. In a move aimed at circumventing House Democratic leadership, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) is currently spearheading a "discharge petition" that would prompt a vote on whether to bring the legislation to the floor. If all GOP members sign onto the petition, the minority would need at least 20 House Democrats to also sign on in order to officially discharge the legislation from the Small Business Committee and onto the floor. Under House rules, the earliest this petition can formally be filed is Friday, Sept. 25.

PROBLEM SOLVERS ROLL OUT COVID-19 PROPOSAL. The bipartisan Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus outlined their roughly $2 trillion proposal for the next round of pandemic relief aid amid mounting concerns from rank-and-file lawmakers about the lack of progress on leadership-level negotiations. The proposal reflects an effort to find a bipartisan compromise on several emerging and existing needs related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, including state and local aid, health care, liability protections, unemployment insurance, and child care. It also includes provisions on small business relief, broadband funding, agriculture aid, and postal service support. Click here to read TRP's analysis of this proposal.

PANDEMIC EXECUTIVE ORDERS. With negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation at a standstill, President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders on pandemic-related priorities. The orders seek to restore the enhanced federal unemployment benefits at a rate lower than the CARES Act allocation, defer payroll taxes until early 2021, renew the moratorium on evictions, and continue deferring student loan payments and accrued interest under the CARES Act statute. The executive actions do not touch on any health-specific priorities such as testing and treatment, nor do they address liability-related issues — leaving employers at risk of litigation until a compromise deal is hammered out.

— HEALS Act. Senate Republicans officially introduced their opening offer for the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation following days of intraparty negotiations between GOP Senators and White House officials. The legislative package was officially released as multiple pieces of legislation, with six total sections:

Click here to view TRP's side-by-side of the Senate GOP HEALS Act and the House Democratic HEROES Act.

COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers


— CMS RELEASES INFORMATION ON COVERAGE FOR COVID-19 TESTING. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released information designed to help states, nursing facilities, and other providers better understand the sources of Medicare and Medicaid coverage and payment for COVID-19 testing, including a flow chart detailing testing coverage for nursing facility residents.


— FDA PUBLISHES GUIDANCE ON INVESTIGATIONAL COVID-19 CONVALESCENT PLASMA. The Food and Drug Administration issued final guidance that outlines recommendations to health care providers and investigators on the use of investigational convalescent plasma in COVID-19 patients.

— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OUTLINES GAME PLAN FOR VACCINE DISTRIBUTION. The Trump administration outlined its plan to distribute and administer millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in a report to Congress and a playbook for states.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is requiring states to submit plans on how they would distribute and administer a vaccine by Friday, Oct. 16.

— INDEPENDENT NURSING HOME COMMISSION OUTLINES RECOMMENDATIONS. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published the final report from the independent Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes.

  • The Commission outlined 27 recommendations and accompanying action steps pertaining to testing, screening, PPE, infection control, and quality of life, among others.

— NIH AWARDS CONTRACTS FOR COVID-19 DIGITAL HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded seven contracts to companies and institutions of higher education to develop digital health solutions that help address the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The agency identified smartphone apps, wearable devices, and software that can identify and trace contacts of infected individuals as possible avenues to explore with this funding.

— DOL REVISES PAID FAMILY AND SICK LEAVE REGULATIONS. The Department of Labor (DOL) announced revisions to regulations that implemented the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

— HUD ANNOUNCES NEW CARES ACT DISTRIBUTION TO CDBGS. The Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) announced nearly $2 billion in CARES Act funding that is allocated toward the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. This particular funding tranche is geared toward households with greater risk of eviction.

— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ADJUSTS COVID-19 ENTRY STRATEGY FOR INTERNATIONAL AIR PASSENGERS. The Trump administration announced changes to its entry strategy for international air passengers traveling to the U.S.

  • Beginning Sept. 14, 2020, the U.S. government will remove requirements for directing all flights carrying airline passengers arriving from, or recently had a presence in, certain countries to land at one of 15 designated airports and halt enhanced entry health screening for these passengers.

— FDA ISSUES NEW USE AUTHORIZATIONS FOR COVID-19 DRUGS. The FDA issued new emergency use authorizations (EUA) for drugs for use during the

COVID-19 pandemic. The notice subsequently revoked the EUA for oral formulations of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate.

ASPR PUBLISHES GUIDE ON DISCHARGE PLANNING FOR ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES. The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response recently published Discharge Planning and Care Coordination during the COVID-19 Pandemic, a tool designed to support nurses, social workers, case managers, and others conducting discharge planning for adults with disabilities after COVID-19 treatment.

HHS ISSUES RFI ON SURGE CAPACITY FOR COVID-19 TESTING. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a request seeking information on the ability of Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified/accredited commercial, academic, medical center, and public health laboratories to feasibly provide additional COVID-19 testing capability if supplementary testing instruments were made available.

— FED OPENS MAIN STREET LENDING FACILITY UP TO NONPROFITS. The Federal Reserve announced that the central bank has opened up its Main Street Lending Facility to eligible nonprofit entities.

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