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Window On Washington - June 22, 2020, Vol. 4, Issue 25

Jun 22, 2020

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

The House. The House will vote this Friday on a bill to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state, marking the first time Congress has voted on the issue since 1993. The House Armed Services Committee will also start marking up its version of the annual defense authorization bill this week, with the full committee markup scheduled for July 1. The bill will likely reflect many of the current debates over police brutality and race while highlighting increased strategic competition with China and efforts to speed up dominance in space. The House Appropriations Committee will hold a virtual member day on FY 2021 appropriations tomorrow, and will begin marking up the spending measures on July 6, starting with the State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, and Military Construction-VA bills. The committee will then mark up Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy-Water, and Labor-HHS-Ed on July 7, and Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-HUD, Defense, and Financial Services on July 8.

The Senate. Today, the Senate will consider the nomination of Cory Wilson to be a judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Wilson’s approval would give President Trump his 200th judicial confirmation. The Senate will also hold multiple hearings this week, including a nomination hearing for Derek Kan to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on FCC Oversight, where all five commissioners are scheduled to testify.

Policing Reform. Both chambers plan to focus this week on legislation aimed at overhauling policing practices. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would like the House and Senate to go to conference on a police bill, so lawmakers can negotiate the differences between the GOP-led bill in the Senate and the Democratic-driven bill in the House. The House is scheduled to vote on its measure, the Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120), this Thursday. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will file cloture on a motion to proceed on the Senate’s bill, the JUSTICE act (S. 3985), this week. McConnell previously said that it’s up to Democrats to decide if they advance the Republican bill or not. Whether the Senate bill – which would require de-escalation training for local police officers, increased use of body cameras, and make lynching a federal crime – gains traction with Democrats is not yet clear. More information on the differences between the House, Senate and White House policing plans is available here.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS                                                                        

Budget & Appropriations

Fights Over Police Reform, COVID-19 Delay Senate Appropriations Markups: The Senate Appropriations Committee is delaying the start of markups for funding the government in the next fiscal year over partisan disagreements on police reform and COVID-19 spending. (The Hill)

House Appropriators Set July 6-9 Markups: The House Appropriations Committee will begin full panel markups on July 9 of spending legislation for the upcoming fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, according to a schedule released by Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) last week. On July 9, the full committee will weigh 302 (b) allocations for all the bills along with the State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, and Military Construction-VA measures. The committee will then report out its Energy-Water and Interior-Environment bills on July 10. (Clark Hill Insight)

Health

Key GOP Senator Endorses Permanent Telehealth Provisions: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) last Wednesday called on Congress to make permanent two temporary telehealth changes enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Roll Call)

Heinrich Urges CDC to Share Data with Tribal Orgs: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) is calling on the CDC to share coronavirus data with the nation’s 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers, warning that its refusal is hampering Native Americans’ ability to respond to the pandemic. (U.S. Senate)

Labor & Workforce

Fed’s Powell Urges Congress to Spend on Unemployed in Pandemic: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday urged Congress to spend more money to limit the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest in a chorus of current and past Fed officials to tell lawmakers that inaction could lengthen the recession. (Roll Call)

Banking & Housing

Inspectors General Ask Congress for Help in Monitoring Coronavirus Relief Payments: Federal watchdogs are asking lawmakers for help after Trump administration legal rulings appeared to sharply limit their ability to monitor more than $1 trillion in coronavirus relief programs — including huge payouts to protect businesses threatened by the pandemic. (Politico)

Democrats Demand Details from Banks, Treasury on Small Business Bailout: The request, led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn and six colleagues, came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the government would not reveal the names of the Paycheck Protection Program’s nearly 4.6 million loan recipients––even though the PPP loan application told borrowers their information would be released. (Politico)

Members of Congress Took Small-Business Loans — And the Full Extent is Unknown: It’s a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have acknowledged close ties to companies that have received loans from the program — businesses that are either run by their families or employ their spouse as a senior executive. (Politico)

Agriculture

Legislators Urge USDA to Ease Cover Crop Deadline Restrictions: A bipartisan group of 12 senators and 12 representatives signed a letter last Friday calling on the Department of Agriculture to move up the deadline for allowing producers to graze or harvest cover crops on prevented plant acres. (Agri Pulse)

Justice

House Judiciary Panel Advances Police Reform Bill After Emotional Debate: After nearly 12 hours of tense debate, the committee approved the bill along party lines with all Republicans voting in opposition. (Politico)

Democrats Pan Trump, Barr Over Dismissal of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman: Democrats cast the sudden ouster of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is probing Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies, as a constitutional crisis and evidence of their claims that Trump is trying to politicize the Justice Department. (The Hill)

Defense

Hill Recoils at Proposed Cut to Pentagon Anti-Pandemic Effort: The Senate Armed Services Committee’s new defense authorization bill, or NDAA, would restore $50 million of the proposed $76 million cut to the Biological Threat Reduction Program. The House Armed Services Committee, which starts writing its bill on June 22, and the House Appropriations Committee appear quite likely to approve at least that much funding, if not more, with Senate appropriators’ views not yet clear. (Roll Call)

Inhofe to Introduce New Legislation That Could Cost Ligado: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is cranking up the heat on Ligado Networks with new legislation that would require the company to cover the costs of any Global Positioning System user — government or commercial — that is hurt by the company’s newly approved use of L-Band spectrum. (C4ISRNET)

Environment/Interior

Senate Passes Major Lands Conservation Bill: The Great American Outdoors Act, which passed in a 73-25 vote, would permanently provide $900 million in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps secure land for trails and parks. (The Hill)

Cyber

House Republican Accuses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube of Not Doing Enough to Combat Chinese Propaganda: Scorecards released by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-TX) last Wednesday accused Twitter, Facebook and YouTube of not taking adequate steps to limit the spread of Chinese disinformation and propaganda. (The Hill)

Education

Democrats and Republicans in Congress Spar Over Need for More Federal Education Aid: At a hearing last Monday of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the committee chairperson, said that the experience of the Great Recession makes it essential that Congress approves the additional funding, beyond the $13 billion in K-12 education funding authorized by the CARES Act approved by Congress in the spring. (Ed Source)

Transportation

Democrats Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan: House Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan Thursday that calls for a huge increase in funding to repair roads and bridges while expanding broadband access in rural areas. (The Hill)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget and Appropriations

Kudlow Says $600 Additional Unemployment Checks Will End in July: National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow reiterated last week the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit created to aid those who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic will end in late July. (Politico)

Health/HHS/NIH

NIH Halts Trial of Hydroxychloroquine: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has halted its clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, saying that while there are no ill side effects, the anti-malaria drug provides no benefit to COVID-19 patients. (NPR)

Federal Review Confirms CDC Coronavirus Test Kits Were Faulty Because of 'Likely' Contamination: A federal review by HHS found that the early version of the CDC coronavirus test kits failed because of “likely” contamination. (The Hill)

Defense/DOD

Navy Won't Reinstate Fired Captain: The Navy will not reinstate the fired commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier following an investigation of leadership’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak onboard in March. (The Hill)

Top Foreign Policy Pentagon Official Resigns After White House Passes on Nomination: A top Pentagon policy official is resigning days after the White House rescinded its plans to nominate her for the Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian intelligence post, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed last Thursday. (The Hill)

DOD Issues Defense Space Strategy: The Department of Defense rolled out a Defense Space Strategy (DSS) in response to what it sees as an increased Russian and Chinese weaponization of space. It outlines a phased approach that will take place over 10 years to achieve those objectives across four “lines of effort.” (Space Policy Online

Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico Planting the Seeds of Technology for the Future Space Force: The AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB works on many technologies that are used in both the air domain and the space domain, so in the future the Directorate will perform science and technology functions for both the Space Force and the Air Force including in the areas of hypersonic flight, advanced satellites and space-based solar energy, despite technically now falling the control of the Space Force. (Space News)

Labor and Workforce

More Than 1.5 Million File New Jobless Claims in Second Week of June: The second week of June marks the 11th straight week of more than 1 million new claims for unemployment benefits, dating back to the initial lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. (The Hill

EPA/Interior

EPA Will No Longer Regulate Toxic Compound in Drinking Water: The EPA says that levels of the toxic compound — perchlorate — have already been reduced in the U.S. through drinking water regulations in California, Nevada and Massachusetts, and improved storage for drinking water disinfectants. (Axios)

Agriculture/USDA

USDA Extends Farmers to Families Food Box Program Contracts for Some Vendors: Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced that the USDA will extend the contracts of select vendors from the first round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. (IFT)

USDA Misses Organic Livestock Rule Deadline: The Agriculture Department blew past the 180-day deadline set by Congress to finalize its origin of livestock rule. (Politico)

Scientific Panel on New Dietary Guidelines Draws Criticism From Health Advocates: More than half of this year’s panel has ties to the food industry, and the scientists leading newly created subcommittees on pregnant women, lactating mothers and toddlers have ties to the baby food industry. (New York Times)

Space/NASA & NOAA

How the White House Agenda for Managing Space Traffic Got Jammed Up: Little progress has been made in the two years since President Trump issued a directive ordering federal agencies to update the process for tracking objects in space the guidelines for how to handle space junk. The most significant step sought to put the Commerce Department in charge of responsibilities that now reside in the Department of Defense and that some in Congress have argued should instead go to the FAA. (Politico)

NOAA Claims Significant Cost Reduction For Polar Weather Satellites: High costs and cancelations have bedeviled NOAA’s satellite systems for years, but now NOAA says a reassessment of its Polar Follow On (PFO) weather satellite program resulted in an almost 10 percent savings in life cycle costs compared to a 2016 estimate. The PFO program funds the third and fourth Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft that are planned for launch in FY2026 and FY2031. (Space Policy Online)

New NASA Human Spaceflight Leader Acknowledges Challenge of 2024 Lunar Landing: The new head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, Kathy Lueders, says she’s excited by the opportunity to lead NASA’s aggressive efforts to return astronauts to the moon as soon as possible, but cautioned she could not guarantee that it could be accomplished by the end of 2024. (Space News)

Baking & Housing/HUD

Morgan Stanley Advising Fannie on Exit; JPMorgan Assists Freddie: Fannie Mae hired Morgan Stanley to advise the mortgage giant on its eventual exit from U.S. control, while Freddie Mac retained JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Bloomberg)

Fed Launches Long-Awaited Main Street Lending Program, Seeks to Reach Nonprofits: The Federal Reserve last Monday launched its Main Street Lending Program and also sought feedback on a proposal to expand the program to allow nonprofit organizations to borrow under the program as well. (Reuters)

Treasury, SBA Ease Path for Loan Forgiveness After Outcry: The Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department released a three-page "EZ" loan forgiveness form that certain borrowers from the Paycheck Protection Program would be able to use. (Politico)

FHA Extends Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium Again: Last Wednesday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that the Federal Housing Administration is providing a two-month extension of its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through August 31, 2020. (HUD)

Transportation/DOT

FAA Says it Won't Make Masks on Planes Mandatory: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday said it will not make it mandatory for passengers to wear masks on planes, leaving the decision to require the protective gear up to individual airlines. (The Hill)

Justice

Barr Echoes Trump's Concerns About Mail-In Voting, Says it Could 'Open the Floodgates of Potential Fraud': Experts have said that fraud is slightly more common among mail-in ballots than other forms of voting, but widespread fraud is not an issue among all formats of voting. (The Hill)

DHS/Homeland Security

Top DHS Official: Trump Instructed Agency to 'Restart the DACA Process': Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said Friday that President Trump ordered the agency to "restart the DACA process" after the Supreme Court's decision against Trump's order to end the program. (The Hill)

Trump Expected to Suspend H-1B, Other Visas Until End of Year: President Trump is expected to sign an order to suspend H-1B, L-1 and other temporary work visas through the end of the year, according to the multiple sources familiar with the plan. (NPR)

Education

Months Later, Stimulus Grants Come for College Students in Fits and Starts: A poll by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators revealed that nearly three-quarters of institutions hadn’t disbursed CARES Act emergency grants by May. (Inside Higher Ed)

Trade

Trump Says 'Decoupling' from China on the Table: Decoupling refers to a process of separating the two countries' intertwined economies and supply chains, which would amount to a major economic realignment. (The Hill)

Tax

Conservative Groups Urge Mnuchin to Extend Tax Payment Deadlines into 2021: A group of conservative organizations is urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to extend the July 15 tax deadlines into next year, arguing that this should be an "immediate priority." (The Hill)

Cyber

Facebook Removes Trump Video Over Unauthorized Use Complaint: Facebook last Friday took down a video posted to President Trump’s account that doctored a video of two toddlers after the received a copyright complaint, the second time in as many days the social media giant has removed Trump-related content. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

Petroleum Industry Says Demand Grew 14 Percent Last Month Amid Economic Reopening: A major oil and gas industry group said last Thursday that demand for petroleum, which fell earlier this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, increased by 14 percent last month over demand in April. (The Hill)