COVID-19 Federal Update 4-23-20

April 23, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 40,683, Tuesday, 42,364, Wednesday 45,075, Thursday, 46,785.

CARES Act Stimulus Supplemental

House returns to Washington for Vote: The House plans to convene at 10 a.m. today to give final passage to an interim rescue plan to bolster a staggered American economy.  It will be the first time lawmakers have gathered in such a large group since March 27, when the last stimulus plan was approved, and they will be casting a roll-call vote under extraordinary circumstances to match the times.

Unlike the Senate, which was able to pass the latest emergency package in a quick voice vote with only a handful of senators present, the possibility of an objection from either party means at least half of the 429 current House members must venture to Washington despite the risks from the coronavirus pandemic. For each of the two scheduled votes, they’ll be divided into groups of about 60 each, arranged in alphabetical order, and will enter the House chamber through specific doors and leave through other doors.

Gloves and masks will be provided. “I’m bringing my own so I intend to use it,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said. Debate on the spending bill, which is all but certain to pass and which President Donald Trump has promised to sign, will be held for two hours. The House also is voting today on a plan to establish a panel to oversee coronavirus spending. That vote will go first; then the House will take a 30-minute break so the chamber can be cleaned before members are brought back for the vote on the aid package. Each vote could take as long as an hour to finish given the restrictions.

Many elderly and at-risk lawmakers are expected to stay home, and only one committee hearing is scheduled — by the Small Business Committee on the Covid-19 response. Erik Wasson and Billy House have the latest.  The Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses would be allowed to issue an additional $310 billion in loans, and $100 billion would be allocated for hospitals and coronavirus testing under the interim emergency aid measure. The aid package would increase spending by about $483 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. For more, read the BGOV Bill Summary by Michael Smallberg and Danielle Parnass.


Oversight of CARES Act and Stimulus Relief

Coronavirus Investigations: A new House investigative panel would be formed to probe the coronavirus outbreak and the federal government’s response under a House resolution also set for a vote today. The resolution would establish a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis within the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The panel would include as many as 12 members appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), with as many as five recommended by minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The subcommittee would investigate the use of taxpayer funds for relief and stimulus spending, allegations of price gouging and profiteering, federal programs to expand virus testing and develop vaccines, and disparate effects of the virus on communities in the U.S., among other issues. The panel’s chairman, selected by the speaker, would be authorized to issue subpoenas. The resolution would allocate $2 million for the panel, which would disband 30 days after submitting a final report to the full House, according to BGOV legislative analyst Michael Smallberg.


Economic Impacts

Confidence in Fed Chair High: Americans’ confidence in the Federal Reserve’s leadership reached a 15-year high as the central bank moved aggressively to counter the crippling economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A combined 58% of respondents said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell would do or recommend the right thing for the economy, according to an April 1-14 survey by Gallup.

Powell fared better than Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the congressional leadership of both parties. Among options provided by the survey, respondents ranked only their own governors more highly than the Fed chairman. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Mnuchin Pressed on Returned Stimulus Checks: A pair of House Democrats asked Mnuchin for details about how the department is handling the nearly $1 billion in stimulus payments returned to government coffers. Reps. Mike Thompson (Calif.) and John Lewis (Ga.) requested the department to explain how it is going to ensure the payments land in taxpayers’ pockets at a time when the outbreak continues to keep businesses shuttered. Read more from David Hood.

States that Asked First Got More Disaster Relief: States that acted swiftly to request coronavirus relief last month are getting an outsize share of small-business disaster loans compared with those that waited just a day or two longer to make the call. The data shows loan-approval data for the first $5.6 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Small Business Administration, which is separate from the Paycheck Protection Program. Read more from Zachary Mider and Cedric Sam.

Luxury Hotel Exec Biggest Winner of Small-Business Relief: A Dallas hotel executive whose empire includes luxury resorts has emerged as the biggest winner from the coronavirus bailout for small businesses. A combined total of $59 million from the small business lending package went to three lodging companies chaired by Monty Bennett, according to regulatory filings. The money went to Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which owns luxury properties including the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The small business loan program has come under f ire after big restaurant chains like Potbelly got loans, while many mom-and-pop firms were left stranded. Read more from David McLaughlin, Patrick Clark and Ben Brody.

Unused Oil Said to Undercut Aid Need: House Natural Resources Committee Democrats yesterday pushed back against Trump’s call for new aid to the oil and gas industry, citing a report that found nearly 10,000 drilling permits the industry sought on federal lands have gone unused. Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) argued the Government Accountability Office report calls into question years of Trump’s efforts to speed permit approvals for the oil and gas sector on federal lands in pursuit of what the administration terms U.S. “energy dominance.” Read more from Dean Scott.

Airport Tower Hours to Be Trimmed: About 100 U.S. airport towers would see reductions in the amount of time they are staffed by air-traffic controllers under a plan announced yesterday by federal aviation regulators. The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s trying to keep controllers safe from Covid-19 and lessen the chance that towers will need to be closed as a result of infections or staffing shortages. Read more from Alan Levin.

Pot Shops Said to Need Federal Aid: Small cannabis businesses are blocked from applying for coronavirus-related emergency relief. A group of Democrats in the Senate want to change that in a future aid bill. The cannabis industry employed more than 240,000 Americans earlier this year, the senators said, but marijuana dispensaries have been forced to tighten their belts, and let workers go to make their ends meet during the outbreak. State-legal cannabis businesses should be given a slice of Small Business Administration support to avert more job losses as millions of Americans are thrown out of work, 10 Democrats wrote in a letter to Senate leaders. Read more from Megan U. Boyanton.

NJ Governor Slams McConnell Bankruptcy Comment: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for saying he favors allowing states struggling with high pension costs amid the burdens of the pandemic response to declare bankruptcy rather than giving them a federal bailout. “Encouraging, engendering, explicitly almost hoping” for bankruptcy “is completely and utterly irresponsible,” he said, in a rare display of anger for the generally even-tempered governor. “You have my word we won’t go bankrupt.” Read more from Elise Young.


Reopening of the States

Trump Disagrees With Georgia Re-opening: Trump said he disagreed with the Georgia governor’s decision to begin relaxing its social-distancing measures, in a departure from the president’s repeated calls for states to re-open. “I disagree with what he’s doing,” Trump said at the White House in reference to Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) announcement that tattoo parlors, movie theaters and nail salons in Georgia will begin re-opening this week. “I think it’s too soon,” Trump said. Read more from Joshua Gallu.

Labor Markets in Key Election States Are Among Worst in US: Labor markets in key presidential battleground states are among the hardest hit by the virus-induced economic crisis, according to an index of state activity released yesterday from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Workers in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and Michigan were among the most affected in March. The data further highlights the pressure on Trump to return Americans to work, without worsening the public health crisis that has killed more than 45,000 people. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Trump Signs Order Suspending U.S. Immigration: Trump signed an executive order yesterday temporarily curbing immigration in what he described as an effort to limit competition for jobs as the U.S. takes steps toward re-opening the economy. “This will ensure unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy re-opens,” Trump said at a White House briefing. The president’s order will only apply to foreign nationals on foreign soil seeking residency in the U.S., and will not affect those who currently have val id visas or travel documents. It also exempts individuals seeking to permanently enter the country as a medical professional or researcher, as well as members of the armed forces, those seeking asylum or refugee status, and children being adopted by American parents. Read more from Justin Sink, Genevieve Douglas and Shaun Courtney.

Business Temper Liability Expectations: Businesses that reopen during the coronavirus pandemic likely won’t be completely off the hook if workers and customers fall ill, even as the Trump administration looks at ways to ease employers’ liability concerns. Trump and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this week the administration is exploring protections for business from certain legal risks related to reopening. Kudlow described the idea as a “guardrail” of sorts, but stopped short of any concrete proposals.

Business lobbyists say it’s unlikely the administration could successfully create a broad shield protecting companies from potential personal injury, workplace safety, and other litigation. Some are looking instead for a targeted response that would ease some of the risk at the federal level. Read more from Chris Opfer, Jaclyn Diaz and Paige Smith.



CDC Head Denies Warning of Second Wave U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield denied saying to The Washington Post that a second wave of the new coronavirus in the U.S. this winter could be worse than what the country already has experienced.  “I didn’t say that this was going to be worse,” Redfield said at the White House’s coronavirus task force press briefing. “I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated” because of the seasonal flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time. Redfield was quoted by the newspaper on Tuesday as claiming a resurgence in the virus could coincide with flu season and put a strain on the country’s health-care system. He said yesterday that he was accurately quoted in the article, but that the headline lacked context. “There is a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told The Washington Post. “When I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.” Redfield’s comments to the Post threatened to create a political problem for his boss, President Donald Trump, whose November re-election could be imperiled by concern over a resurgence of the coronavirus. Earlier yesterday, Trump said Redfield was “totally misquoted” by CNN, which summarized the Post’s report.

At yesterday’s briefing, Trump said the U.S. will be ready when the fall flu season arrives, even if there are new flare-ups of Covid-19. ‘From everything that I have seen, it can never be like anything we witnessed right now,” Trump said. “If they combine and come together, it’s not great, but we will not go through what we went through for the last two months.” Read more from Drew Armstrong.

Health Aide Says He Was Fired Over Trump-Touted Drugs  A top federal health official who was helping lead efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine said he was removed from his post because he insisted on limiting the use of a drug Trump has pushed as a Covid-19 treatment despite little clinical evidence it works. Rick Bright was abruptly pushed out of his position as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority on Tuesday and given a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health. BARDA is helping drugmakers develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.  The drugs Trump has touted, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, “clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright said in a statement released by his lawyers yesterday. “I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public,” he said. “Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk.” Trump, asked about Bright at the White House briefing yesterday, said “I never heard of him. When did this happen?” He then added: “I don’t know who he is.”

Bright’s former office had received an emergency authorization last month from the FDA to use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in the national stockpile for hospitalized Covid-19 patients. BARDA oversees the stockpile. During an April 10 interview with Bloomberg, Bright emphasized the need for conducting rigorous scientific research even in the midst of a pandemic. “It is very difficult to do development and conduct research in the middle of a pandemic outbreak,” he said on a call that focused on some of BARDA’s drug research in Covid-19 treatments. Anna Edney and Robert Langreth have more.

Top Democrats expressed concern over the ousting of Bright:

  • House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called Bright’s removal “authoritarian” and “anti-science,” saying it may “have long-lasting and deadly effects for the American public.” She cited a “forthcoming request” by Bright for the HHS inspector general to probe the politicization of BARDA’s work and is “wholeheartedly” on board.
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said “a global pandemic is not the time to shuffle personnel, or contradict and remove experts for wanting to do their job well,” and called Bright’s removal “incredibly disturbing” while adding she will be pushing for answers.
  • Separately, Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) sent a letter to the FDA yesterday expressing their concerns of shortages in hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine after Trump touted the medications. The pair has “heard directly from health care providers and Virginians who depend on these lifesaving drugs and fear losing access to them,” they said in a statement, urging the FDA “work to ensure that patients who have long depended on these drugs continue to have access to them.”

Masked Lawmakers to Vote in Person to Pass Stimulus: Welcome to legislating in the pandemic era: U.S. House members in masks, disinfectant, silent committees and hundreds of billions in deficit spending.  The House plans to convene at 10 a.m. Thursday to give final passage to an interim rescue plan to bolster a staggered American economy. It will be the first time lawmakers have gathered in such a large group since March 27, when the last stimulus plan was approved, and they will be casting a roll-call vote under extraordinary circumstances to match the times.

Unlike the Senate, which was able to pass the latest emergency package in a quick voice vote with only a handful of senators present, the possibility of an objection from either party means at least half of the 429 current House members must venture to Washington despite the risks from the coronavirus pandemic. Read more from Erik Wasson and Billy House.

U.S. to Award Health Providers $20 Billion: The federal government plans to distribute another $20 billion to health providers whose businesses have been struck by the pandemic, adding to $30 billion that was already distributed. The money is part of the $100 billion set aside for hospitals, physician practices and other health-care providers in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package meant to help people, businesses, and organizations amid the crisis. While some hospitals are inundated with Covid-19 patients, many are struggling financially a fter canceling elective procedures and office visits that are big money-makers for the systems.  The initial $30 billion was distributed based upon providers’ Medicare fee-for-service revenue, a simple calculation that let the government send the money quickly. But some hospitals said it resulted in hospitals that need the funding most getting shortchanged in the initial round. Drew Armstrong has more.


Rural Hospitals Get HHS Relief: Small rural hospitals and telehealth education centers will get nearly $162 million to prevent, diagnose, and treat Covid-19, the HHS said yesterday. The funding will be divided among 1,779 rural hospitals to help them respond to the pandemic and among 14 telehealth resource centers, which help rural hospitals in offering telehealth services, the Health and Human Services Department said. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the funds would help to expand telehealth, procure personal protective gear, an d boost testing capacity. Read more from Shira Stein.  Meanwhile, some hospitals complained that the new portal HHS set up to help distribute the money is having troubles, and some can’t submit their information. America’s Essential Hospitals, an industry group representing 300 hospitals and health centers, urged Azar to extend the deadline until the technical glitches are fixed.

Uncertainty on Entitlement Forecasts: Medicare’s trust fund will keep it afloat until 2065—13 years longer than forecast last year—but how the pandemic may affect that remains to be seen, according to an annual report. The report from the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees also anticipates that Social Security can continue paying full benefits until 2034, the same as projected last year. Both programs will see costs exceed GDP growth through the mid-2030s as baby boomers continue to age into retirement. Andrew Childers has more.

Health Departments Finally Get Software to Track Cases: As states and cities begin to think about reopening their economies, the public-health workers who will be responsible for keeping Covid-19 from spreading face an unprecedented challenge: how to track and isolate thousands of people exposed to a virus that spreads with remarkable efficiency. For years, state and local health authorities have relied on Excel, paper, emails and phone calls to battle measles outbreaks, sexually transmitted diseases and other infections.

But, with more than 800,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., that’s not enough. A new software tool called Sara Alert, developed by a federally funded nonprofit, aims to solve that arduous data-management problem. “The concept here is quickly find the brush fire and extinguish the brush fire before you have a forest fire,” said Paul Jarris, chief medical adviser at Mitre, the research group that developed the software. Read more from John Tozzi.

  • Meanwhile, New York state is building a “tracing army” to track the origin of individual coronavirus cases and reduce the spread so the state can focus on re-opening, Gov. AndrewCuomo (D) said yesterday. He unveiled plans to work with New Jersey and Connecticut to increase contact tracing. Keshia Clukey has more.
  • New York City officials also plan to enlist thousands of health-care workers next month to conduct hundreds of thousands of diagnostic tests per day, and isolate anyone found to be carrying the disease. The plan hinges on the city’s still-unmet capacity to test its residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said at a press briefing yesterday. Read more.

California to Expand Testing: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he had a “very good” conversation yesterday with Trump, who agreed to send the state a minimum of 100,000 swabs needed to boost testing for the novel virus. Another 250,000 are expected next week, he said. Newsom is aiming to sharply increase testing for the coronavirus as a step toward re-opening the world’s fifth-largest economy. California currently has capacity to test 16,000 per day and expects to reach 25,000 by the end of the month, with an ultimate goal of 60,000 to 80,000, he said at a press briefing. Read more.

Puerto Rico Reviews Virus Testing Scandal: Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board is looking into an agreement by Gov. Wanda Vazquez’s administration to buy coronavirus testing kits from inexperienced local companies that charged more than three times as much as a rival bidder. The oversight board received some 1,200 pages of documents tied to the contract on Monday, after several requests to the administration, according to board spokesman Matthias Rieker. Read more from Michelle Kaske.

Outbreak-Related HHS Rule Changes Now Online: The Trump administration is making it easier for state and local health-care authorities dealing with Covid-19 to sort out what they can and can’t do. It’s putting all guidance and regulatory actions—and there are a lot—in one place. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday released an online coronavirus “Workforce Virtual Toolkit” for health-care decision-makers that includes information on funding opportunities, liability protections, and workforce training.

The White House has taken a number of actions to bolster the health workforce to treat Covid-19 patients, including allowing medical practitioners to practice at the top of their license and across state lines and expanding telehealth services covered by Medicare. In one example, the administration has specific guidelines for different types of health-care providers on how they could expand the scope of their practices to respond to the coronavirus. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Top Winners From Virus Contracts: The gusher of U.S. government contracts aimed at fighting the coronavirus reached $7.2 billion this week, and the money is benefiting big and small companies across the globe. The top dozen winners shown here are dominated by American businesses, but also include ventilator-makers from the Netherlands and Japan (Royal Philips and Asahi Kasei), as well as a Spanish construction-services outfit, ACS, hired to construct a health-care facility on Long Island in New York. Several closely held firms a re also on the list, Phil Kuntz and Ryan Beene report.

WHO Warns Protests Could Fuel Outbreak: The director of the World Health Organization said that protests would worsen the coronavirus crisis. “Protests and gatherings in the middle of the pandemic will not help,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing yesterday. “It will only fuel the outbreak.” Government leaders need to win the trust of citizens and engage with them in two-way dialogues to manage social pressures, he added. His comments come after protests against government lockdowns in several U.S. states. Read more.

Arkansas Can Restrict Surgical Abortion: Abortion providers in Arkansas may not perform surgical abortions while an emergency order requiring that elective surgeries be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic is in effect, the Eighth Circuit said today. A lower court’s temporary restraining order barring the state health department from enforcing the directive against abortion providers was improper because the lower court did not follow the appropriate framework for deciding when a state may constrain constitutional rights in respon se to a public emergency, the Eighth Circuit said, Mary Anne Pazanowski reports.

Texas Lets Abortions Resume: Texas said clinics can once again offer all legal abortion services so long as they stick to their promise not to accept publicly provided medical masks, gloves and gowns for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. The state notified an Austin federal judge yesterday that clinics have the green light to resume all legal abortions at facilities that certified they will abide by the Republican governor’s new public health order that took effect earlier in the day. Like the governor’s earlier direc tive, the new one bans all nonessential medical procedures — including abortion — but exempts elective procedures at facilities that promise not to deplete public stockpiles of personal protective equipment and to reserve 25% of their hospital beds for treating Covid-19 patients. Read more from Laurel Brubaker Calkins.




Carmakers Avoid Worst-case Scenario: Automakers are headed for a less-drastic U.S. sales collapse than feared, Keith Naughton reports, citing market researchers.  Retail sales to consumers are down about 50%, a drop-off that wouldn’t be as steep as China or Western European countries saw in the first full month following their coronavirus outbreaks, according to Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting with LMC Automotive, a partner of J.D. Power. “We’re now expecting a pattern that is more of a sustained level of a 40% to 50% decline over a longer period of time, instead of the really deep hit and then a relatively quick recovery,” Schuster said by phone. The best-performing major segment has been large pickups, while compact cars have been hardest-hit, J.D. Power said.

N.Y. MTA Finances in ‘Perfect Storm’: New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a list of immediate needs: liquidity, bond market access, additional federal aid and a way to solve what could be a $8.5 billion budget deficit this year. “They’re all happening at the same time and so that really is bringing us kind of just a perfect storm financially, but I think we’re prepared to address it,” Bob Foran, the MTA’s chief financial officer, told reporters yesterday following the agency’s monthly board meeting. “The federal government has come through, the state government has come through for us, and I believe that the bond market will come through as well.” The MTA is seeking an additional $3.9 billion federal bailout to help cover lost revenue for the nation’s largest mass transit system in New York City, the epicenter of the virus. The agency will test the municipal-bond market as it plans to sell bonds to roll over most of $1 billion of short-term debt maturing on May 15. Read more from Michelle Kaske.

Delta Favors New Debt Over Equity: Delta is looking to extend a borrowing binge to survive the collapse in travel demand from the coronavirus pandemic, favoring new debt over an equity offering after rival United sold shares at a historically low price. Options for Delta include borrowing against $13.5 billion in unencumbered assets, or selling planes and leasing them back from the buyers, said Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson. Delta has also applied for $4.6 billion in U.S. government loans. If tapped, that would complement the $5.4 billion in emergency U.S. payroll support that Delta has already lined up. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the industry faces a long, uncertain recovery that will take as long as three years, dashing any lingering investor hopes for a speedy rebound. “We do know that Delta will be a smaller airline for some time, and we should be prepared for a choppy, sluggish recovery even after the virus is contained,” Bastian said in a letter to employees. “I estimate the recovery period could take two to three years.”
Mary Schlangenstein recaps the airlines business plans.

New Service Hours for Control Towers: About 100 airport towers would see reductions in the amount of time they are staffed by air-traffic controllers, Alan Levin reports. The FAA said it is trying to keep its controllers safe from Covid-19 and lessen the chances that towers will need to be closed as a result of infections or staff shortages. The agency is consulting with airports, flight operators and other businesses before it acts later this month, it said in the statement. The agency has a map of facilities affected by Covid-19.

Closures Extended for Trusted Traveler Centers: Trusted Traveler Program enrollment centers — including Global Entry — will remain closed until at least June 1, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced yesterday. The agency is taking precautions to minimize the exposure of CBP personnel and the public to Covid-19.

House T&I Leaders Oppose Clean Water Rollback: House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.) released a joint statement yesterday calling the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back clean water protections “cruel and wrong.”  “It is unconscionable that in the middle of a national health care crisis, the Trump administration is destroying Clean Water standards, which will further weaken public health in our country,” said Napolitano. “In order to prevent this newly allowed contamination from entering our homes, these agencies will have to spend billions of dollars creating treatment facilities to clean up the mess caused by polluters.”

Lawmakers Op-ed on FCC, Ligado: Armed Services Committee leaders in an op-ed yesterday wrote in opposition to the FCC’s approval of Ligado Networks’ spectrum proposal. “The Federal Communications Commission has used the crisis, under the cover of darkness, to approve a long-stalled application by Ligado Networks — a proposal that threatens to undermine our global positioning system (GPS) capabilities, and with it, our national security,” the lawmakers wrote.. House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), and ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) along with Senate counterparts Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) used the op-ed to clarify what Ligado’s spectrum proposal entails, its affect on DOD programs, while giving their expectations for next steps. “We encourage the FCC to withdraw its approval of Ligado’s application and take this opportunity to work with the NTIA and other federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Transportation, to find a solution that will both support commercial broadband expansion and protect national security assets. Moreover, we expect the FCC to resolve Department of Defense concerns before moving forward, as required by law.” Read more in C4ISRNet.

Boeing’s Commercial Management Shakeup: Boeing is tapping Mark Jenks, the head of its 737 program, to oversee a drive to improve manufacturing practices across all of its commercial aircraft programs, according to an internal memo viewed by Bloomberg. Jenks is reprising a role first held by former Boeing executive Pat Shanahan early last decade, when the Chicago-based company was recovering from costly stumbles early in the manufacturing of its 787 Dreamliner. All programs and leaders of jetliners ranging from the 737 to 787 will report to Jenks under the new structure as Boeing works to overcome delays and quality lapses that have dinged its reputation. The changes are part of a broader shake-up at Boeing’s commercial division under Stan Deal, who took control late last year as the plane maker faced backlash to its handling of two fatal 737 Max crashes. They follow a corporate realignment Tuesday that gives Greg Smith, the company’s No. 2 officer, sweeping responsibility for operations and finance. Julie Johnsson recaps the rest of the reorganization.

Cruise Ship Infamous for Triggering Virus Surge Leaves Australia: A coronavirus-stricken cruise ship that’s been linked to hundreds of cases and at least 20 deaths in Australia, leading to a criminal investigation, has begun its departure from the country. The Princess Cruises-operated Ruby Princess left Port Kembla in New South Wales state on Thursday and is expected to sail to the Philippines where it will offload its crew, weeks after its passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney before test results were known. After docking in Sydney on March 19, some 2,647 passengers left the ship even as 13 individuals on board suffered flu-like symptoms. With the first infections confirmed the next day, state and federal leaders blamed each other for the lapse, and health authorities raced to track down and isolate the thousands who had left the boat and dispersed across Australia. Read more from Jason Scott.



Campaign 2020


Trump’s Crisis Handling Has Spiked Number of Undecideds: Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse has shaken voters’ confidence in him, with the percentage of undecided voters more than doubling in the last two weeks. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is also seeing voters take a second look at their support. With his campaign limited to a few livestream events a week, he hasn’t been able to capitalize on Trump’s newfound weakness. Three weeks ago, only 5% of voters overall were undecided in the 2020 race. That number has jumped to 12% and in one Fox News poll, 16% as voters appear to find both candidates wanting during a national emergency. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Biden Leads Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania: Biden has significant leads over Trump in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two Fox News polls showed. The polls both found Biden leading the incumbent president by 8 points in the swing states, which could have a decisive role in the November election. Fox found Biden ahead in Michigan 49% to 41% and leading 50% to 42% in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, 51% of respondents said they disapproved of Trump’s performance, compared with 47% who approved. The result was identical in Michigan. Trump narrowly w on both states in 2016. Read more from Emma Kinery.


Other Stories


Trump Chooses Tata for Top Defense Post: Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and Fox News commentator, will be named to a top job at the Pentagon, two people familiar with the matter said last night. Tata, a West Point graduate who has published several novels, would become undersecretary of Defense for policy, if confirmed by the Senate. He would replace John Rood, who was ousted in February. Rood was the official who certified to Congress last May that Ukraine was eligible to receive $250 million in security assistance. That aid was later temporarily blocked by the White House, a decision at the center of Trump’s impeachment. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

Water Bills Said to Need More Funding: Two bipartisan draft water infrastructure bills unveiled this week by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are a good start but will need even more funding in the wake of the pandemic, water agencies and other groups said yesterday. The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 centers mostly on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and policy, and would authorize roughly $17 billion in infrastructure projects. Dean Scott has more.

Iran Says U.S. Action in Gulf Will Be Met With Swift Response: The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps told the U.S. his country will firmly defend its security and any action in the Persian Gulf would be met with a “swift and decisive” response, Golnar Motevalli reports. “To the Americans, we announce that in defending our national security, maritime borders, interests at sea and the security of our ships and forces at sea, we are fully determined and serious,” General Hossein Salami said in comments published by Sepah News, its official news website. The comments come after Trump said he’d ordered the U.S. Navy to destroy any Iranian gun boats that harass American ships at sea.

U.S. Probes Possible Insider Trading off OPEC Tips: The U.S. is investigating whether traders with inside information on Russia’s negotiations with other oil producing nations made hundreds of millions of dollars from illegal wagers on crude price swings, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission probe is focused on whether aspects of the strategy the Russian government pursued last month with other members of the OPEC+ coalition leaked out to market participants ahead of time. Read more from Ben Bain and Matt Robinson.

U.S. Halts Plan to Help North Korea on Climate: The U.S. is blocking a United Nations initiative its backers argue would help North Korea cope with increasing risks posed by climate change even as the UN eases the flow of supplies meant to help mitigate a pandemic. A request made by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to run a two-year program inside North Korea to assist Kim Jong Un’s regime in responding to climate disasters and hazards was rejected by the U.S. on the grounds it fell short of humanitarian rule exemptions. David Wainer has more.



Today on the Hill


White House

  • Trump has no public events scheduled
  • 11:00 am – In-House Pool Call Time
  • 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing


  • The Senate holds a pro forma session at 5:30 p.m.



  • The House will meet at 10 a.m. for legislative business, with votes scheduled to begin around 1:30 p.m.




Legislation Updates from Yesterday


  1. H.R.266— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
  2. H.R.6322— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. H.R.6595— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To expedite and expand provision of American Citizen Services worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes.
  6. H.R.6596— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To realign the nuclear forensics and attribution activities of the Federal Government from the Department of Homeland Security to the National Nuclear Security Administration.
  7. H.R.6597— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To extend zero interest rate benefits and payment suspension to certain Federal student loan borrowers, and for other purposes.
  8. H.Res.934— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Electing a certain Member to a certain standing committee of the House of Representatives.
  9. H.Res.935— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Establishing a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis as a select investigative subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. RESOLUTION
  10. H.Res.936— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Supporting the designation of April 19-25, 2020, as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
  11. H.Res.937— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing the important role Victory Gardens played in America’s World War efforts and reaffirming their purpose as essential to strengthening food security, health education, and community morale during the 2020 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

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