COVID-19 Federal Update 4-22-20

April 22, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 40,683, Tuesday, 42,364, Wednesday 45,075.

CARES Act Stimulus Supplemental

House Readies Vote on Stimulus: The Senate sent a $484 billion package of new pandemic relief funds to the House for likely approval tomorrow, as lawmakers and the Trump administration began turning their attention to the next round of stimulus for a stalled U.S. economy. The legislation passed by the Senate yesterday — which includes $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help struggling small businesses keep their workers on the payroll — is widely regarded as an interim step as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause death and economic havoc. “We have a great victory for the American people,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after the Senate acted. “But we certainly need to do more.”

President Donald Trump, who met yesterday with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), said aid to state and local governments would be part of a so-called phase four stimulus, as would money for road projects and expanding broadband service. “Infrastructure is going to be a big part,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “We have to rebuild our country.”  At the same briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to put a price tag on the next package, but Cuomo and other governors have called on the federal government to provide at least $500 billion into state aid alone.

The $484 billion legislation moving through Congress this week comes on top of the $2 trillion package enacted last month and follows tens of billions of dollars in an earlier measure passed in response to the pandemic. While the dollar figure so far is historic, so is the scale of the downturn, with some economists expecting double-digit contraction in gross domestic product in the second quarter.  Democrats want a broad spending package for the next round. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it should include funds for state and local governments, hazard pay for front-line workers, food aid, election security and funds for the U.S. Postal Service.

It’s not clear how quickly a plan with bipartisan support can be drafted. Congress isn’t scheduled to return to Washington until May 4, though negotiations can take place and provisions drafted without most lawmakers in town. Read more from Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson and Katia Dmitrieva.  The legislation, which the House could take up as early as tomorrow, includes $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help struggling small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. The program has already committed all of the $350 billion allocated when it was created just weeks ago.

The bill also includes:

  • $75 billion for hospitals, with a significant portion aimed at those in rural areas,
  • $25 billion for virus testing. The testing funds include $18 billion for states, localities, territories, and tribes to conduct Covid-19 tests
  • $1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health. Up to $1 billion would cover costs of testing for the uninsured
  • The bill sets aside $30 billion of the PPP loan funds for banks and credit unions with $10 billion to $50 billion in assets and another $30 billion for even smaller institutions.
  • The measure includes $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and makes farms and ranches eligible for the loans.

 

Oversight of CARES Act and Stimulus Relief

Budget Figures May Be Bad News: The Congressional Budget Office said last week that the economic relief package passed in March would cost the government $1.8 trillion, not the $2.2 trillion initially thought. But some economists say the CBO’s calculations are not that comforting, and suggest the government may not be providing the economy with all the support it might need to survive the coronavirus shock relatively intact.

“From a budget perspective, this might seem like good news, but from the larger issue of avoiding economic catastrophe it is a problem,” said former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who now heads the American Action Forum. Read more from Rich Miller.

Virus Aid Watchdog Will Have Subpoena Clout, Member Says: The congressional watchdog overseeing a half-trillion dollars in virus-related spending can rely on the subpoena powers of other parts of Congress if it needs to fight for documents from the Trump administration to conduct its work, according to Rep. French Hill (Ark.), a Republican member of the commission. Hill said the $2.2 trillion virus relief act clearly directs the executive branch to provide details needed for oversight, although the five-member congressional commission by itself does n ot have subpoena authority. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.

 

Economic Impacts

Immigration to Be Suspended for 60 Days: Trump said he would suspend legal immigration to the U.S. for at least two months to help Americans who have been put out of work because of the coronavirus crisis. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “We must first take care of the American worker.”

The pause will be in effect for 60 days and will apply only to individuals seeking permanent residency, Trump said. He added that “certain exemptions” would be allowed in an executive order, which he said would likely be signed today. “There will be some people coming in.” That apparently includes agricultural laborers. Trump said “the farmers will not be affected by this at all.” The ban would also not apply to health care or medical research professionals, according to the draft. Read more from Nick Wadhams, Jordan Fabian, Josh Wingrove, and Shaun Courtney.

Big Companies Asked to Return Loans: Trump said he’d ask larger companies to return money they accessed from the federal stimulus package because it was intended to help small businesses. Trump, speaking yesterday, criticized Harvard University’s endowment, which was reported borrowing more than $8 million through the program. But Harvard said in a statement that it “did not apply for, nor has it received any aid through the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.” Read more from Mario Parker.

  • No one wants to take the blame for the loophole that allowed name-brand restaurant chains like Shake Shack to get huge sums of pandemic-relief money meant for small businesses. Lobbyists, lawmakers and agency officials deny responsibility. Yet fingers are pointing over how big national chains including Potbelly and Ruth’s Chris Steak House landed $10 million or more apiece in loans while millions of mom-and-pop firms were left stranded when the program ran out of money. Read more from Ben Brody, Steven T. Dennis and Naomi Nix.

California Gets Largest Share of Disaster Loans: The small business program sent the largest share of its disaster loans and grants to California, according to a partial accounting released yesterday. The Small Business Administration reported on roughly $5.6 billion in coronavirus-related disaster loans and $3.3 billion in grants approved under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, or EIDL, so far. Small businesses in California have gotten the most in loans at $1.5 billion, or about $38 per state resident, twice the national average. B oth EIDL and the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money last week. Read more from Mark Niquette.

Virus Contracts Top $7 Billion: The federal government has awarded $7.2 billion in contracts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including one that would pay a little-known Massachusetts biotech firm more than its reported revenue for the last three years combined. Shares of Moderna rose sharply after the Department of Health and Human Services agreed to pay more than $400 million for the company to develop and test its Covid-19 vaccine now in an initial clinical trial.

It’s just one example of the thousands of federal contracts awarded by the Trump administration to fight the coronavirus, according to a review of federal data compiled by Bloomberg Government. Some companies have secured nine-figure deals to supply thousands of ventilators, face masks, hospital capacity and other critical services needed to manage the outbreak. Read more from Ryan Beene and Phil Kuntz.

Undocumented Students Barred From Aid: Undocumented college students harmed by the pandemic will be left out of emergency grants provided by the latest stimulus package, the Education Department said in a Q&A document. Congress, in enacting the legislation last month, directed more than $14 billion to higher education, including $6 billion for direct aid to students facing a loss of housing, food, or health care because of campus closures. Colleges that will distribute the money expressed uncertainty about whether undocumented students could qualify for it. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday also released $6.2 billion of the $14 billion higher education package to colleges forced by the coronavirus pandemic to make costly changes such as rapidly switching to online instruction, Kreighbaum reports.

The Senate yesterday cleared a bill that would allow additional student veterans who can’t complete their courses due to Covid-19 to maintain their educational benefits. The House passed the measure on March 31. The bill would authorize the Veterans Affairs Department to make payments or extend eligibility periods for students who participate in work-study or vocational rehabilitation programs, are affected by school closures, or can’t take courses online. The measure would expand on legislation enacted March 21 (Public Law 116-128). Michael Smallberg has more in the BGOV Bill Summary.

Disparities in State Funding: More populous states are losing out in Covid-19 funding because of the way it’s distributed. Fifty House lawmakers wrote in a letter to House leaders to require both past and future funding be distributed per capita. The letter, led by Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Sean Casten (D-Ill.), belies a far bigger problem, Foster said: The Senate has “systematically come up with spending formulas” that disadvantage big states across federally-funded grant programs. Bigger states are paying more in taxes to the federal government than they get back in grants, a shortfall of $20 to $40 billion per year in Illinois, Foster said, Shira Stein reports.

Krugman Says Federal Response Insufficient: Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman said the federal government’s fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic has been “way insufficient” so far. “We need to un-bottleneck those unemployment benefits,” Krugman said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. The U.S. should set up a federal program to disburse the assistance to workers who have lost their jobs rather than through the patchwork of state systems, which are struggling to handle the volume. He also said there should be more aid for cities and states, which will be crucial to the recovery. Read more from Katia Dmitrieva.

Fear of Job Loss Surges to 45-Year High: A quarter of working Americans believe it’s “very likely” or “fairly likely” they will lose their job or be laid off in the next 12 months, according to a Gallup poll. That’s a 17 percentage-point swing in one year, from matching its lowest reading since 1975 to its highest, driven by the rapid impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy. The survey, released today, was conducted April 1 through 14. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Reopening of the States

Agencies Prepare for Re-Opening: A White House Office of Management and Budget memo telling federal agencies to begin the re-opening process after the coronavirus subsides is consistent with the administration’s push to get the U.S. back to normal as soon as possible, but some are calling for a slower startup. The memo from OMB Acting Director Russell Vought rightly tells agency leaders to follow state and local orders intended to curb the pandemic as they look to return employees to their workplaces where that’s feasible, said Robert Shea, an OMB official during the Bush administration. But it’s “troublingly vague,” Shea said. Read more from Louis C. LaBrecque.

Trump Meets With Cuomo: New York Gov. Cuomo said yesterday he and Trump had a “productive” coronavirus discussion at the White House in the latest chapter of an unusual relationship that’s included a public exchange of insults and on-again, off-again bonhomie. The governor said he used the Oval Office session to lobby for more supplies needed to process coronavirus tests, and to ask the federal government to address supply-chain issues. He said he also discussed the need for additional federal funds going to states. Cuomo said Trump was open to including financial relief for hard-pressed states in a phase four stimulus. Read more from Justin Sink and Keshia Clukey.

Far-Right Social Media Stirs Protests: Small bands of protesters have staged demonstrations over government-ordered lockdowns in the otherwise empty streets of a number of Democratic-led states, driven by the social-media tactics of a coalition of gun-rights activists and far-right groups. Mostly in states with Democratic governors and often encouraged by Trump, protests have sprung up to demand an end to social-distancing measures. Social media has been the spark, with Facebook pages springing up to amplify the message and making the movement seem like more of a grass-roots effort than it may, even as some pages attract tens of thousands of likes. Read more from Alyza Sebenius and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

 

Healthcare

Rural Hospital Boost Fails Despite Bipartisan Push: A bipartisan Senate push to let publicly run hospitals tap into the federal guaranteed loan program did not make it into the bill, despite a duo of lawmakers saying such facilities were unintentionally left out and are struggling to stay afloat. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) wanted to add language to the next stimulus legislation language to clarify that small, county-and locally owned hospitals can apply for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, Alex Ruoff reports.

Virus Aid Watchdog Will Have Subpoena Clout, Member Says: The congressional watchdog overseeing a half-trillion dollars in virus-related spending can rely on the subpoena powers of other parts of Congress if it needs to fight for documents from the Trump administration to conduct its work, according to Rep. French Hill (Ark.), a Republican member of the commission. Hill said the $2.2 trillion virus relief act clearly directs the executive branch to provide details needed for oversight, although the five-member congressional commission by itself does no t have subpoena authority. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.

State-Level Actions & Funding Pleas

Trump Meets With Cuomo Amid Tensions: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said yesterday that he and Trump had a “productive” coronavirus discussion at the White House in the latest chapter in an unusual relationship that’s included a public exchange of insults and on-again, off-again bonhomie. “The big issue was testing,” Cuomo said in an interview on MSNBC. “That’s going to be the next step as we go forward. And how we separate the responsibilities and tasks of testing going forward, vis-a-vis the state and federal government.”

The governor said he used the Oval Office session to lobby for more supplies needed to process coronavirus tests, and to ask for the federal government to address supply-chain issues. He said he also discussed the need for additional federal funds going to states. Cuomo said Trump was open to including financial relief for hard-pressed states in a phase four stimulus. Read more from Justin Sink and Keshia Clukey have more.

  • Also yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said that the city is creating its own strategic reserve of medical equipment and supplies to make sure it’s prepared for a future pandemic. “We have learned the hard way that we cannot depend on the federal government,” he said at a press briefing. New York will stockpile ventilators and protective gear for health workers—gowns, masks, face guards and gloves—both locally made and purchased elsewhere. Read more from Henry Goldman.

Treasury Uses Half of Relief Fund: The U.S. Treasury has deployed more than half of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which provides for payments to state, local, and tribal governments. The daily Treasury statement notes that as of Monday, $81.9 billion had been used this month. The $150 billion fund was established to help lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Alex Tanzi and Saleha Mohsin have more.

Disparities in State Funding: More populous states are losing out in Covid-19 funding because of the way it’s distributed, and 50 House lawmakers wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to require that both past and future funding is distributed per capita. The letter, led by Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Sean Casten (D-Ill.), belies a far bigger problem, Foster said: The Senate has “systematically come up with spending formulas” that disadvantage big states across federally-funded grant programs.

Bigger states are paying more in taxes to the federal government than they get back in grants, a shortfall of $20 to $40 billion per year in Illinois, Foster said. The problem is both the overall formula, and the minimums set that each state needs to receive. Foster’s solution is that the minimum each state receives should be set at the administrative costs for dispersing the funds. If it doesn’t cost anything to disperse, there should be no minimum, he said.

Lawmakers are hearing from every city in their districts about how the money they’re receiving is inadequate to handle the coronavirus pandemic, Foster said, and he thinks that there will be a renewed interest in this problem as a result, Shira Stein reports.

Inspections of Medical Supply Facilities: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and five other Senate Democrats urged the FDA in a letter yesterday to inform them about the “steps it is taking to evaluate medical supply manufacturing facilities given the suspension of foreign and domestic in-person inspections of these facilities,” according to a statement. The senators told FDA chief Stephen Hahn that “uncertainties around COVID-19 and broader vulnerabilities with the medical supply chain” underscore the need of robust assessment of medical equipment. Read the letter here.

‘Shark Tank’ Said Needed for Testing Woes: The NIH would set up a $1 billion “shark tank” fund to fulfill a shortage in coronavirus tests needed to re-open the nation, two key Republican senators proposed yesterday. The legislation from Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) comes as a lingering disagreement remains between Democrats and Republicans over the testing program, including which agency should oversee it.

The U.S. is conducting about 150,000 tests a day to diagnose cases, according to the Trump administration, but public health experts like Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, estimate it will take more than 500,000 daily tests to reopen by May 1. And there will be many more antibody tests required to understand how far the disease has spread and whether some people have developed immunity that would allow them to return to work. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

First At-Home Sample Collection: The FDA gave its green light for the first home diagnostic kit for Covid-19 that will let people take their own nasal swabs and mail them for testing. “With this action, there is now a convenient and reliable option for patient sample collection from the comfort and safety of their home,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement yesterday. The collection kits will be available to consumers in most states with a doctor’s order in the coming weeks, the agency said. Jacquie Lee has more.

First U.S. Virus Death Came Weeks Earlier Than Thought (Axios): The first U.S. coronavirus death appeared to have come weeks before the Feb. 29 date that officials have pinpointed, according to autopsy results of two cases released by Santa Clara County, in California, Axios reports. Samples from two people who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed they both tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a statement from the county. That’s earlier than the previously-thought first-known death from the virus, which was a Washington state patient who died on Feb. 29, Derek Wallbank reports.

When Ventilators Run Short, a $500 Invention May Save Lives: As hospitals scour their storerooms in search of ventilators for Covid-19 patients, Israeli inventors have proposed a solution: an open-source, build-it-yourself breathing machine that costs less than $500. Called AmboVent, it’s the brainchild of a team led by David Alkaher, a 40-year-old engineer with the Israeli Air Force. Based on simple components that are easy to find like windshield-wiper motors, the device has a price advantage over full-scale models: High-end ventilators made by the likes of Philips can cost almost 100 times as much. Read more from Thomas Muller.

Guidelines Reject Trump-Backed Drug: A panel of medical experts convened by the NIH recommended against a drug combination touted by Trump for Covid-19 patients. The NIH panel, made up of 50 doctors, pharmacy experts and U.S. government researchers and officials, specifically recommended against the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. The malaria pill can cause heart issues, and the panel warned of the potential for harm from the combination. Read more from Michelle Fay Cortez and Robert Langreth.

HHS Awards $955 Million to Aid Vulnerable: Community-based organizations will get $955 million to help seniors and people with disabilities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the HHS announced yesterday. The funds will go to organizations such as independent living centers, senior centers, and faith-based groups to allow them to deliver meals, provide transportation to grocery stores or the doctor, give care in the home, support families and caregivers, and offer other services. Read more from Shira Stein.

HHS Agency Chief To Leave Post: The director of the U.S. government agency responsible for helping shepherd a vaccine for the novel coronavirus to market has stepped down. Rick Bright, who has led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016, will take a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health working on a plan to accelerate the development of diagnostic tests for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, an HHS spokeswoman said. Gary Disbrow with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Prepared ness and Response will serve as the acting director of BARDA, the department said. Read more from Anna Edney.

Health Insurers Step Up Lobbying: The health insurance industry spent more on its efforts to influence Washington in the first three months of 2020 than in any quarter in recent years, as lobbying expenditures by the rest of the health-care sector remained relativity steady.  America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents the bulk of U.S. health insurers, spent $3.6 million in the first quarter of this year on lobbying, a 28.5% increase over the $2.8 million the group spent in the same months in 2019, federal lobbying disclosure forms show. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Anthem, and UnitedHealth all similarly spent more on lobbying in the early months of 2020 than they did in the year-earlier period. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

U.S. Virus Contracts Top $7 Billion, Aiding Some Winners’ Stocks: The federal government has awarded $7.2 billion in contracts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including one that would pay a little-known Massachusetts biotech firm more than its reported revenue for the last three years combined. Shares of Moderna rose sharply after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed to pay as more than $400 million for the company to develop and test its Covid-19 vaccine now in an initial clinical trial. The company’s shares were up 152% this year at Tuesday’s close.  It’s just one example of the thousands of federal contracts awarded by the Trump administration to fight the coronavirus, according to a review of federal data compiled by Bloomberg Government. Some companies have secured nine-figure deals to supply thousands of ventilators, face masks, hospital capacity and other critical services needed to manage the outbreak. Read more from Ryan Beene and Phil Kuntz.

Drug Pricing Bill Includes Rebates: Drug manufacturers would have to provide Medicare inflation rebates, and out-of-pocket drug costs for beneficiaries of Medicare would be capped under the December 2019 draft of drug pricing legislation (S. 2543) from the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill includes changes to Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care and drugs administered by physicians, as well as Part D, a voluntary prescription drug program administered through private insurers. It also includes changes to Medicaid, which is administered by states and covers low-income individuals. Read more from Sarah Babbage.

The outbreak has exposed weaknesses in the world’s health system that patient advocates say can move the needle on years-long arguments over pricing and availability of medicines. The drug industry says it’s undertaken an unprecedented effort to find vaccines and treatments for coronavirus. Researchers are sharing work and vowing to make sure any treatments are widely available and affordable. These global efforts give patient advocates new leverage in the debate over drug prices that could continue after the pandemic ebbs. Valerie Bauman and Susan Decker have more.

Lawmakers Urge Cyber Officials to Protect Hospitals: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Chris Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and General Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, urging them to bolster defenses, coordinate with hospitals and work to deter cyber attacks against hospitals, which have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. The lawmakers asked the agencies to make cyber threat information public and to provide technical cybersecurity assistance to states and the medical sector.

Indian Health Service Chief Confirmed: The Senate yesterday confirmed Michael D. Weahkee to be director of the Indian Health Service within HHS for a term of four years

 

 

Transportation

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) today are kicking off an information-gathering process on two pivotal water bills in an effort to move both toward passage before the end of the year, Dean Scott reports.   However, timing of the committee markup isn’t certain. Written statements from five invited stakeholders are due today and panel members can submit questions for those stakeholders through Friday. Answers to those questions will be due next Friday, as well as comments from other stakeholders.  The panel yesterday released draft text for America’s Water Infrastructure Act and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act, which are likely to draw bipartisan support given they benefit water treatment and other projects in towns large and small located in virtually every congressional district.

  • The draft drinking water bill includes roughly $2.5 billion in federal authorizations for water projects, including those under the Safe Drinking Water Act, that would give local communities additional technical assistance to improve water quality. The measure was authored by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), who both serve on the committee.
  • The draft AWIA, which was authored by panel members Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), would authorize roughly $17 billion to increase water storage, improve flood protection, deepen U.S. ports, and repair aging wastewater and irrigation systems.

Boeing to Release Records on 737 Max  Boeing has agreed to turn over more than 50,000 documents to a union pension fund about the airline manufacturer’s failed 737 Max aircraft, an attorney for the fund told a Delaware court.The materials — which include unredacted board records dating back to 2010 — 27,000 congressional documents, and approximately 14,000 emails, could be one of the largest document productions under Delaware records inspection law, said Samuel L. Closic of Prickett, who represents the Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local Union Local No. 79 General Fund.  The fund expects to get most of the records by the end of April. Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard yesterday gave the fund another month to collect and review the documents, and scheduled a hearing May 29 to decide how the case would proceed, Leslie A. Pappas reports.

Boeing’s New Enterprise Operations Group: The aircraft manufacturer is also combining its legal and core compliance programs, with Brett Gerry as its chief legal officer, and creating an enterprise operations group led by Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith.  The enterprise operations, finance and strategy group will bring together teams responsible for manufacturing, supply chain and operations, finance, enterprise performance, strategy, enterprise services and administration. Olivia Rockeman relates additional organizational changes.

Workers Returning to Factories: Boeing workers were back at their factories yesterday, greeted with new hand washing stations and signs warning of the dangers of the coronavirus. The Washington Post has more on this test of whether it’s safe to return to work.

United Raises $1 Billion Via First U.S. Airline Share Sale: United Airlines Holdings Inc. raised $1 billion by selling new shares, stepping up efforts to increase capital to survive a collapse in travel demand. The company sold 39.25 million shares at $26.50 apiece, with an option for underwriters to buy an extra 10%, United said in a statement Tuesday. The price is at the high end of what the stock was marketed at but about 5% below its latest close.

The share sale, the first by a major U.S. airline during the coronavirus pandemic, underscores efforts by carriers to raise additional funds even after the government stepped in with $50 billion in grants and loans. Passenger totals have fallen about 95% in the U.S. as the disease and government travel restrictions keep many people at home. Read more from Justin Bachman and Drew Singer.

United and Delta are also in talks with banks on new debt issuance to further bolster liquidity and supplement cash to be raised from a share sale and government loans, according to people with knowledge of the matter, report Gillian Tan, Davide Scigliuzzo and Justin Bachman. Both are in discussions with banks that have sounded out investors about their interest in a potential deal, one person said. No deal has been finalized, and terms and size of a transaction are in flux, they said.

Trump Mega-Donor Pushes to End Shutdown: Billionaire Liz Uihlein, one of the Republican Party’s biggest donors and an economic adviser to President Donald Trump urged employees at her Wisconsin shipping-supply company Uline to support a petition for the recall of the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, saying he was violating their constitutional right to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The move highlights the ongoing debate that’s dividing neighbors, politicians and business executives. Anders Melin and Polly Mosendz look back at Uihlein’s rise and activity during the outbreak.

Airlines Upped Lobbying as Virus Began Hobbling Economy: The airline trade association Airlines for America spent nearly $2 million in the first quarter, up more than 50% from almost $1.3 million in the same period a year earlier, and secured financial assistance as demand for air travel plunged, according to lobbying disclosures filed with Congress Monday. Ben Brody and Mark Niquette highlight other industry spending.   Among the disclosures is work done during the first quarter by former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on behalf of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Shuster, along with panel staffer Rebekah Sungala, joined Squire Patton Boggs and worked on coronavirus aid and the inclusion of the FAA in parental leave legislation, though Shuster only lobbied the executive branch.

FAA to Close Air-Traffic Center Near DC: An air-traffic center guiding high-altitude flights in the mid-Atlantic region closed for several hours last night for cleaning after a worker contracted Covid-19, the agency said in a statement. The FAA has had employees or contractors test positive for the virus in more than 40 air-traffic facilities around country, including similar high-altitude centers in New York and Atlanta. Read more from Alan Levin.

California Sues to Stop Federal Water Actions: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion yesterday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern California seeking a preliminary injunction to stop new guidelines for how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation moves water out of rivers, reservoirs, and other surface water bodies to serve federal water customers. Emily C. Dooley recaps the case.

Green Fuel Likely to Escape Oil’s Fate: U.S. supplies of corn-based ethanol have swelled to a record as the coronavirus pandemic keeps drivers off roads. But biofuel prices, while still tumbling, are at least not likely to go below zero because it’s easier for the industry to close or idle a mill where grain is crushed into fuel than it is for its traditional counterparts to close an entire oil field. American ethanol output has already slowed by the most in history, and it will be a relatively simple process to close more plants if prices keep falling. Michael Hirtzer explains the silver lining.

Ex-Ambassador Joins Self-Driving Startup: Jeffrey Bleich, who spent three years as the U.S. ambassador to Australia during the Obama administration, is joining Cruise on May 4 as its new chief legal officer. The autonomous vehicle technology outfit is backed by General Motors and SoftBank Group. Brian Baxter overviews his past career and new duties.

 

Campaign 2020

Trump Campaign Shaping Up as 2016 Deja Vu: As Trump faces rising disapproval of his coronavirus response, he’s reviving the heated rhetoric that got him elected — blaming China, pointing fingers at global institutions and, especially, cracking down on immigrants.

His latest volley came late Monday in a tweet promising a temporary halt to all immigration into the U.S., even though the coronavirus has already ground travel globally to a halt. It marked a revival of Trump’s signature issue from 2016, when he fired up supporters with vows to build a wall on the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it. The return to the immigration issue arose seemingly out of nowhere, and coincides with the American economy suddenly souring as the lockdowns across the country cause a record spike in unemployment. That dynamic allows Trump to use immigrants as a target for U.S. job losses.

The immigration order is part of a return to his old patterns of criticizing Democratic-led states, attacking global institutions like the World Health Organization and unleashing criticism of China from the daily briefing podium after months of praising its leaders during trade negotiations. And it coincides with a rise in the number of Americans dissatisfied with his handling of the crisis. Read more from Mario Parker.

UAW Endorses Biden: The United Auto Workers union yesterday endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, snubbing Trump who won significant support among the union’s members in 2016. The endorsement came a day after it backed Biden’s plan for reopening the economy, which UAW President Rory Gamble said was a “nonpartisan, science-based” approach. The country “needs a president who will demonstrate clear, stable leadership, less partisan acrimony and more balance to the rights and protections of working Americans,” Gamble said. “UAW members ultimately want a voice. And Joe Biden is committed to giving UAW members that voice at the table.” Read more from Keith Naughton.

Seven Voters in Wisconsin Infected: Wisconsin health officials have identified seven people who may have contracted coronavirus after voting in the state’s elections earlier this month. The state Department of Health Services added “election activity” to its list of virus investigation questions in its disease registry. The database “attempts to capture anyone that may have voted in person or worked at a polling place” on April 7, according to Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s commissioner of health. Read more from Emma Kinery.

 

 

Other Stories

Oversight Chairs Say Trump Hotel Shouldn’t Get Rent Break: Two House panel chairs said the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. should not be given rent reductions in the building it leases from the U.S. General Services Administration, after a New York Times report indicated the hotel was asking for a break on its lease payments as the virus outbreak cripples business. House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said in a statement the move is the latest in a string of ethics and contract violations by the president and his business. Read more from Chelsea Mes.

Hackers Target Top WHO Officials: Top officials at the World Health Organization are being targeted by hackers as they work on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO’s security team has seen an increasing number of attempted cyber-attacks on the officials since mid-March, according to the organization’s chief information officer, Bernardo Mariano. WHO itself hasn’t been hacked, but employee passwords have leaked through other websites, he said. Mariano said some of the attacks had been perpetrated by suspected nation-state hackers. Read more from Ryan Gallagher.

Kim’s Likely Successor to Follow Hardline Path: Reports of a health scare for Kim Jong Un are prompting watchers of North Korea to envision the country without him: And the general consensus is that not much may change in how the regime deals with the outside world.  While any sudden leadership change in a dictatorship as opaque as North Korea always has the potential for unintended consequences, the 36-year-old leader consolidated power since taking over from his father in 2011. That appeared to leave “no real advocates” for a Chinese-style opening of the North Korean economy or a change of approach with the U.S. on nuclear weapons, according to Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University. Read more from Iain Marlow, Kanga Kong and Jon Herskovitz.

U.S. Calls Out China Over Emerging Markets: When it comes to companies exposed to emerging markets, most notably China, investors should beware the lack of visibility into their books, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton said yesterday. Foreign jurisdictions aren’t maintaining adequate standards of investor protection, and the U.S. has little control over that, Clayton and other officials said in a strongly worded statement. The group also underlined a longstanding point of conflict: that the main U.S. accounting watchdog can’t inspect the work that Chinese auditors do for companies that sell stock in U.S. markets. Read more from Jesse Hamilton and Robert Schmidt.

Senate Confirmations: The Senate confirmed Mitchell Silk as assistant Treasury Department secretary for international markets and development yesterday by voice vote. Silk, who worked in China for 15 years, has been serving in the position in an acting capacity, Kathy Larsen reports. The Senate also confirmed John Bobbitt to be an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Michael Weahkee to be director of the Indian Health Service at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Rear Admiral Weahkee is a strong leader, who has committed to help the agency fulfill its treaty and trust responsibilities to the many American Indian and Alaskan Natives receiving health care services from the IHS,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “Especially, in light of the outbreak of COVID-19, the IHS must continue to quickly respond to the needs of tribal communities and the experienced leadership of Rear Admiral Weahkee is greatly needed during these times.”

State Antitrust Probes of Big Tech Continue: Multistate antitrust investigations into Facebook and Google continue despite the coronavirus pandemic, a state antitrust enforcer said. “These investigations will not lose steam,” Gwendolyn Cooley, assistant attorney general with the Office of the Wisconsin Attorney General, said yesterday during an American Bar Association conference. “Whether we have COVID related elements in them, these tech investigations are going to be going full steam,” Cooley said during a webcast. Read more from Victoria Graham.

Chevron Effectively Barred in Venezuela: Chevron will be forced to effectively wind down its operations in Venezuela, dealing the Maduro regime’s crumbling oil industry another blow as Trump maneuvers for regime change in the Latin American nation. The U.S. Treasury Department will no longer allow the company to drill wells, sell and buy crude oil or oil products or transport them, according to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The decision also affects four U.S. oilfield service providers. Read more from Kevin Crowley and Lucia Kassai.

Ex-Trump Aide Gates Gets Suspended Sentence: A former top Trump campaign aide who became a star witness for Special Counsel Robert Mueller won permission to serve his criminal sentence at home to care for his ill wife and family amid the pandemic. U.S. prosecutors didn’t object to suspending a requirement that Rick Gates serve 45 days of intermittent confinement during a three-year term of probation. Read more from Peter Blumberg.

 

 

Today on the Hill

 

White House

  • 10:30 am – In-House Pool Call Time
  • 12:00 pm – Trump and First Lady participate in a tree planting ceremony in recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day
  • 1:00 pm – Trump has lunch with the Secretary of State
  • 2:30 pm – Trump receives his intelligence briefing
  • 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing

Senate

  • On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th

 

House

  • On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th

 

Pelosi holds a House Democratic caucus conference call at 11 a.m.

The House holds a pro forma session at 1 p.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) hold a press conference at 3 p.m.

The House Rules Committee meets at 5 p.m. to consider a measure authorizing remote voting by proxy in the House. The measure would allow for remote voting by proxy for         measures responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, enable virtual committee proceedings, and task the Committee on House Administration with leading a study examining the feasibility of remote participation on the House Floor. Read a Democratic summary of the measure here.

 

 

 

Legislation Updates from Yesterday

 

  1. H.R.266— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
  2. H.R.6322— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020
  3. H.R.6559— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect employees from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and for other purposes.
  4. H.R.6560— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To mobilize individuals in the United States in the fight against coronavirus by expanding volunteer opportunities in AmeriCorps, expanding employment opportunities at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and utilizing the expertise of Peace Corps volunteer leaders whose service ended on March 15, 2020, and for other purposes.
  5. H.R.6561— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To authorize the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out a Social Determinants of Health Program, and for other purposes.
  6. H.R.6562— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To suspend the contribution limitations for certain tax-preferred retirement accounts.
  7. H.R.6563— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide for E-Rate support for Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices during emergency periods relating to COVID-19, and for other purposes.
  8. H.R.6564— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to include the fresh fruit and vegetable program under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act as a qualified program for purposes of certain national school lunch program requirement waivers addressing COVID-19, and for other purposes.
  9. H.R.6565— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure that low-income college students are eligible for emergency supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits.
  10. H.R.6566— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure that an individual who has purchased an airline ticket through an air carrier or a third-party is reimbursed during the covered emergency period.
  11. H.R.6567— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide an exclusion from gross income for certain workers.
  12. H.R.6568— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage to provide coverage without imposing any cost sharing requirements for certain items and services furnished during any portion of the COVID-19 emergency period, and for other purposes.
  13. H.R.6569— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide that certain public hospitals are eligible for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, and for other purposes.
  14. H.R.6570— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require software marketplace operators and developers of covered foreign software to provide to consumers a warning prior to the download of such software, and for other purposes.
  15. H.R.6571— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to formally recognize caregivers of veterans, notify veterans and caregivers of clinical determinations relating to eligibility for caregiver programs, and temporarily extend benefits for veterans who are determined ineligible for the family caregiver program, and for other purposes.
  16. H.R.6572— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to carry out a national campaign to increase awareness and knowledge of COVID-19.
  17. H.R.6573— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 10, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Defense to temporarily waive cost-sharing amounts under the TRICARE pharmacy benefits program during certain declared emergencies.
  18. H.R.6574— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Defense to standardize, collect, and analyze information on the demographics of applicants to military service academies, and for other purposes.
  19. H.R.6575— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 49, United States Code, to establish a national transit frontline workforce training center, and for other purposes.
  20. H.R.6576— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prohibit depository institutions from assessing overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees during the novel coronavirus crisis and other disasters, and for other purposes.
  21. H.R.6577— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants or contracts to public or private entities to carry out a national awareness campaign to increase factual awareness and knowledge of COVID-19.
  22. H.R.6578— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Health Service Act to establish the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program.
  23. H.R.6579— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow certain taxpayers a 2-year carryback of net operating losses and to restore and make permanent the limitation on excess business losses of non-corporate taxpayers.
  24. H.R.6580— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To appropriate funds for the SPR Petroleum Account.
  25. H.R.6581— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure international financial institution support for a robust international response to the global COVID-19 pandemic
  26. H.R.6582— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To exclude from income and resources certain Federal pandemic unemployment compensation for the purpose of determining income under the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
  27. H.R.6583— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to establish a risk corridor program for Medicare Advantage plans during the COVID-19 emergency, and for other purposes.
  28. H.R.6584— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide for a temporary increase in Medicaid DSH allotments during the COVID-19 emergency period, and for other purposes.
  29. H.R.6585— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect and report certain data concerning COVID-19.
  30. H.R.6586— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prohibit the creation and use of fake social media accounts or profiles and the sending of fraudulent emails or other electronic messages, and to require certain social media companies to remove fake or harmful accounts and profiles from their platforms.
  31. H.R.6587— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prohibit the creation and use of fake social media accounts or profiles and the sending of fraudulent emails or other electronic messages.
  32. H.R.6588— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish the Homeland Security Higher Education Advisory Council, and for other purposes.
  33. H.R.6589— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and submit to Congress a plan to address the material weakness of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
  34. H.R.6590— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To defer action regarding certain debts arising from benefits under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for a period of time including the COVID-19 emergency period.
  35. H.R.6591— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure that veterans receive timely and effective health care under the Veterans Community Care Program and Veterans Care Agreements during the COVID-19 emergency, and for other purposes.
  36. H.R.6592— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide for an enhanced Coronavirus relief fund, and for other purposes.
  37. H.R.6593— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend certain retirement provisions for judges serving in territorial district courts, and for other purposes.
  38. H.R.6594— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide that businesses with legal gaming revenue are eligible for certain assistance relating to COVID-19, and for other purposes.
  39. H.Res.930— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Supporting the resiliency of America’s small businesses.
  40. H.Res.931— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Congratulating the people of the Republic of Turkey and Turkish Americans nationwide on Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.
  41. H.Res.932— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Expressing support for honoring the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and for other purposes.
  42. H.Res.933— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing COVID-19 frontline workers.
  43. S.Amdt.1580 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)Purpose: To increase amounts authorized and appropriated for commitments for the Paycheck Protection Program authorized under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act, economic injury disaster loans and emergency grants under the CARES Act, to fund hospital and provider recovery and testing, and for other purposes. Amends Bill: H.R.266Sponsor: Sen. McConnell, Mitch [R-KY] (Submitted 04/21/2020) (Proposed 04/21/2020)Latest Action: 04/21/20 Amendment SA 1580 agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent.

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