COVID-19 Federal Update 4-7-2020

April 7, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 9,648*. Tuesday 10,993.


* The United States surpassed 10,000 confirmed fatalities by midday Monday.


In Great Britain, Japan and Lebanon, on the other hand, the situation on Monday appeared more dire, and in Spain, infections continued to rise today along with the death toll. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now in critical care, is the first known head of government to be sickened and hospitalized with the highly contagious respiratory virus. In Japan, cases of COVID-19 surged anew. Lebanon, describing a situation of “extreme danger,” took steps to extend the country’s lockdown order to the end of April.


Eager for any shred of relief in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared on Monday more than 1,500 points on the idea that coronavirus cases may be slowing in some U.S. hot spots (The Hill). Stocks surged 7 percent, building on a global rally fueled by tentative signs that the rate of increase in deaths may be slowing (CNBC).


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), during a briefing on Monday, said his state may have flattened the curve of the coronavirus outbreak but cautioned that it is too soon to be certain. Deaths related to COVID-19 have stayed flat for two days in New York, he said, while new hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions are down. “Those are all good signs and again would suggest a possible flattening of the curve,” he added (The Hill).



Trump Improvises Virus Response: America needed hospital gowns, so Donald Trump called up Walmart. For ventilators, he turned to Detroit’s automakers. Wolfgang Puck counseled him on restaurant aid, while a pillow magnate jumped in to help with a mask shortage.


For weeks, the president minimized the threat of the coronavirus, telling the nation it was contained or would soon disappear. But now that the outbreak is sweeping the country, Trump has been forced to constantly overhaul and retool his team and its ad hoc plan to fight it.


He’s trotted out executives and privately called friends and celebrities for insights. He’s lauded some companies, like Ford and Apple, and threatened others, like 3M and General Motors — before praising both. Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Health Secretary Alex Azar all hold murkily defined leadership roles on Trump’s coronavirus task force, with the president routinely overstepping them all.


Democrats led by former Vice President Joe Biden have criticized the president for a U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak that was delayed and then improvised. More than 350,000 Americans have been infected and more than 10,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the White House projects the U.S. death toll may reach 100,000 or more. Trump’s scattershot approach, leaning heavily on his self-made image as a dealmaker, lends weight to signs the government was ill-prepared fo r the pandemic.


The president has had some success, including a program to create an “air bridge” between the U.S. and foreign suppliers of medical gear that’s brought planeloads of desperately needed hospital masks, gloves and gowns to U.S. cities. The president said Monday that the government has distributed nearly 12 million respirator masks, 26.5 million surgical masks and about 23 million gloves. At Trump’s urging, manufacturers are gearing up to produce thousands of new hospital ventilators, though they m ay not arrive in time for the peak of the U.S. outbreak this month.

But the president continues to demonstrate his impatience with an outbreak that has collapsed the U.S. economy, robbing him of his chief argument for re-election. Read more from Josh Wingrove.


The new week started off with a bang for U.S. equities. All three major stock benchmarks held on for gains of at least 7% yesterday as investors grew confident that lockdowns in the world’s coronavirus hot spots, including New York, are helping slow its spread, Sophie Caronello reports. The number of daily deaths in the U.S. is still expected to peak on April 16, though the cumulative number of Americans likely to die from Covid-19 was revised downward to 82,000, from an estimate of 94,000 less than a week ago.


Trump’s Bailout Watchdog Draws Praise and Fear: The White House lawyer tapped to oversee disbursements from a massive U.S. pandemic relief fund is a former seminarian with decades of oversight experience yet still faces questions over whether he’ll do Trump’s bidding instead of protecting taxpayers. Brian Miller will be the main watchdog over $500 billion directed to big business by Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Treasury Department. The spending is part of a more than $2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress to salve an economy suffering under a virus-induced, stay-at-home coma.


Miller, 64, was born in New York City and is a 1977 graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He studied at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1983. Since then he’s probed health care fraud for the Justice Department and monitored spending at the General Services Administration. Todd Shields and Jason Grotto have more.


Warnings About Stimulus Scams: Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged the IRS’s watchdog to do more to educate Americans about potential scams related to economic stimulus payments that will soon be sent out. Grassley in a letter yesterday urged the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to make “every reasonable effort” to raise awareness about potential fraud schemes during the pandemic. He also requested that the IRS’s watchdog brief his panel on efforts to combat coronavirus-related fraud. Read more from Patrick Ambrosio.


Virus ‘Hotspots’ to Get $186 Million: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give $186 million to health departments in hotspots of Covid-19 infections, HHS announced yesterday. Those health departments will be able to pay for increased staffing and buy critical resources such as lab equipment and medical supplies, HHS said. The money will also go to state health departments, who hope to bolster their tracking and data analysis of coronavirus cases. Shira Stein and Alexis Kramer have more.


Nursing Homes Seek Help on Guidelines: The nursing home industry, which is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19, says it can’t comply with the Trump administration’s latest “critical recommendations” to stop the spread of disease in its facilities. Without adequate personal protective equipment, a healthy and fully staffed workforce, and priority testing of nursing home staff and residents for the coronavirus, “It is not possible to fully comply” with the April 2 directives from CMS and CDC, David Gifford, chief medical offic er at the American Health Care Association, said in a statement. Read more from Tony Pugh.


Uber, Lyft Drivers Eligible for Jobless Aid: Drivers for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft can qualify for emergency unemployment insurance if the Covid-19 pandemic forces them off the road, the Labor Department said. The DOL issued guidance Sunday night to establish a new category of eligible claimants for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program created under the $2 trillion coronavirus-relief law (Public Law 116-136) to extend benefits to various groups of workers who otherwise would be excluded from jobless aid. The guidance addressed a key area of confusion in recent weeks by specifying that independent contractors, such as workers for ride-sharing companies and other gig-economy platforms, can be reimbursed for lost wages if the public health emergency forces them to suspend operations. Read more from Ben Penn.


SBA PPP Rollout Headaches: Inside the executive branch, small businesses are howling that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) are not able to process the tsunami of applications for much-needed bridge loans available under the new law. The E-Tran system used by the SBA crashed and was down for hours on Monday before it was revived, Bloomberg News reported. Some banks are still unable to access SBA application systems, and industry leaders say questions about loan benefits remain unanswered (The Hill).  The president said more than 3,000 lenders had made loans as of Monday, adding that if the government exhausts funds appropriated for the lending programs to small businesses, “we’ll ask Congress to refill it immediately.”



Coronavirus Stimulus – Phase 4

Pelosi Sees $1 Trillion Stimulus: Lawmakers’ next stimulus bill to prop up the U.S. economy reeling under the coronavirus outbreak will be at least $1 trillion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told members of her party yesterday on a private call. The next stimulus package would be focused on replenishing funds for programs established in Congress’s $2.2 trillion virus relief bill signed into law last month, according to people on the call. Pelosi said there should be additional direct payments to individuals, extended unemployment insurance, more resources for food stamps and more funds for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans to small businesses, lawmakers on the call said.


Pelosi also said the bill should assist state and local governments, with an emphasis on smaller municipalities with fewer than 500,000 residents, one lawmaker said. Pelosi has said she wants the next stimulus bill to be passed this month. The House isn’t scheduled to be back in session until April 20 at the earliest. It is possible to pass legislation with most members out of town, as long as no one

objects. Read more from Billy House and Erik Wasson.


Top Chefs Seek Restaurant Aid: The Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization founded during the coronavirus outbreak by well-known restaurateurs including “Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio, gathered 5,000 signatures for a letter sent to congressional leadership yesterday asking for more help in the next round of relief legislation. The letter asks lawmakers to create a Restaurant Stabilization Fund, enact tax rebates for the small restaurants that survive the crisis, and make changes to business interruption insurance, which in many cases doesn’t cover the affects of the global pandemic. Read more from Megan R. Wilson.


Some of America’s fast-food workers are finally getting face masks and emergency sick days to help get them through the coronavirus outbreak. Now the challenge for labor activists is to capitalize on the moment to win permanent improvements in pay and benefits. The rank and file wouldn’t normally be in position to make demands in a job market that’s suddenly teeming with millions of newly unemployed people. But with restaurant drive-thru and pickup services continuing through the pandemic, resta urant workers braving the front lines have won the moral high ground to ask for more protection from their employers. And, in many cases, they’ve gotten it — a rare victory for employees in an industry known for its resistance to organized labor. Read more from Deena Shanker and Leslie Patton.

Fed Urged to Back Mortgage Servicers: A bipartisan congressional group sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell urging the central bank to prioritize ensuring adequate liquidity for the mortgage servicing market for both single- and multi-family residential and commercial mortgages. They’re also requesting that the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility program be expanded to include investment-grade agency and private-label MBS and CMBS, as well as CRE CLOs, as eligible collateral. Read more from Charles Williams.


Two key bank regulators are holding off on easing Wall Street debt limits in response to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving billions of dollars locked up at banking subsidiaries that could be used for lending amid the deepening economic crisis. For now, the Federal Reserve is the only U.S. banking watchdog that’s relaxed a landmark leverage rule that stipulates how much capital banks must hold against their assets. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Co rp., which also enforce the rule, have privately indicated they aren’t yet ready to follow its lead, said three people familiar with the matter. Read more from Jesse Hamilton.


ACA Fixes Sought in Next Package: Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), and a group of 16 Democratic freshmen urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to include legislative changes to the Affordable Care Act in the next stimulus package. Two changes are based on H.R. 1868, which they claim could cut premiums by “thousands of dollars” for over 10 million Americans eligible to buy insurance through the Obamacare marketplace, and H.R. 1425, which they say would “reduce premiums for consumers by helping to defray insurers’ costs and reduce their risk,” according to a statement. Read the letter here.


Pelosi told Democrats on a call yesterday that Congress‘s next stimulus bill to prop up the U.S. economy during the coronavirus crisis will be at least another $1 trillion. The package would be focused on replenishing funds for programs established in Congress’s $2.2 trillion virus relief bill signed into law last month, according to people on the call. Pelosi said there should be additional direct payments to individuals, extended unemployment insurance, more resources for food stamps and more funds for the Paycheck Protection Plan that provides loans to small businesses, lawmakers on the call said. Billy House and Erik Wasson have more on the plan.


Boehner Sees Infrastructure Phase Later: Congress is likely to pass a massive stimulus later this spring that provides $1 trillion just for infrastructure programs, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. Boehner said the package carrying infrastructure funds will likely be the second of two measures — to be known as “Phase Four” and “Phase Five” — that Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) assemble in the next several weeks and try to enact by the summer, Nancy Ognanovich reports.


“When we get to Phase 5 you’re going to see infrastructure in a big way, I think, probably a trillion dollars,” Boehner said yesterday during a conference call organized by the firm of Squire, Patton, Boggs. “And a lot of other cats and dogs.”


Boehner, now an advisor to the firm, suggested that the infrastructure plan will be financed with emergency spending rather than any increase in user fees, including the federal gasoline tax. “It hadn’t happened over the past 10 years because nobody had come up with a way to pay for it. But now paying for it isn’t on the table,” Boehner said on the call. “It’s never been a concern for Donald Trump – especially now,” Boehner added.


Boehner said lawmakers’ focus for the fourth bill will be more on stabilizing the economy and revisiting programs in the recent $2.2 trillion package that didn’t work well. Lawmakers, he said, also will look “at what pots of money need to be increased.”


State DOTs Seek $50 Billion to Offset Revenues: State transportation departments need $50 billion in federal funds to offset significant revenue declines due to plummeting road travel and gasoline sales, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Ryan Beene reports. The group in a letter to lawmakers including Pelosi and McConnell is requesting $49.95 billion for state transportation departments to be included in the next virus stimulus package. AASHTO estimates state DOTs will see a 30% loss in state transportation revenues on average over the next 18 months.


Trump said he’d be open to a second round of federal assistance to furloughed workers if the payments were directly dispersed to beneficiaries rather than funneled through state unemployment insurance systems, a mechanism he said Democratic lawmakers preferred.  Asked about reported glitches, Trump made light of any fumbles. “All we can do is get this massive amount of money to the states,” he said. “It’s getting out.”


Congress is now feeling pressured to move quickly on the next phase of relief. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — bashed by Trump on Monday as a “lightweight” and partisan politician he’s known “for most of my adult life” — told reporters that lawmakers will have to return to Washington “relatively soon” to move on new legislation.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter that her colleagues should move this month. Aides said federal bureaucratic delays processing the newest benefits Trump signed into law are adding to the sense of urgency (The Hill).



Research Efforts, Testing and Treatments


FDA Opens Access to Infusion Pumps: The FDA is expanding access to medical devices that pump necessary fluids into patients as health-care providers battle Covid-19. The FDA issued final guidance Sunday on devices that allow patients to continue therapy. Such infusion pumps are needed for patients that require intravenous infusions of medicine and other nutrition. Read more from Ayanna Alexander.

Trump Disputes Report on Shortages: Trump disputed a federal government watchdog’s finding that hospitals are seeing severe shortages of Covid-19 testing kits and protective gear, and suggested a political motive by the official who produced it. “It’s just wrong,” he said of the report at a White House news conference yesterday, without offering any substantiation. He then demanded to know the name of the U.S. inspector general who produced the study. “Give me the name of the inspector general. Could politics have entered into that?”

The inspector general’s office at Health and Human Services yesterday published a report on widespread coronavirus testing and medical supply shortages, based on surveys of more than 300 U.S. hospitals in late March. Read more from Justin Sink and Jordan Fabian.

Imports for Pandemic Response: House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley requested the International Trade Commission to investigate and identify the imports necessary for treating and otherwise responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Neal and Grassley requested an ITC report no later than April 30 in a letter sent yesterday. The probe will allow the committees and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to take appropriate actions, they said in the letter, Caitlin Webber reports.

Trump Eases Export Restrictions, Touts Deal With 3M: Trump said his administration reached a deal with manufacturer 3M to produce about 55.5 million masks a month for U.S. health-care workers and others combating the coronavirus. The company said it will be allowed to continue exporting some masks to Canada and Latin America from the U.S. “So the 3M saga ends very happily,” Trump said at the White House news conference. Sink and Fabian have more.

Trump eased restrictions on exports of masks and other protective equipment needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic just days after their introduction as he confronted a backlash from allies around the world. Faced with domestic criticism of his administration’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and cries of shortages from hospitals on the front lines, Trump late Friday imposed a ban on exports of N95 masks, surgical gloves and other protective equipment, including from 3M. Read more from Shawn Donnan, Justin Sink, Jordan Fabian and Josh Wingrove.

Inmates to Make Cloth Masks: Federal prisoners have started producing cloth masks to help protect themselves and the correctional officers who guard them from coronavirus, one in a series of actions to try to quash outbreaks across the inmate population. The federal prison industries program is making cloth masks for all federal prisons, while emergency surgical face masks are being given to a limited number of inmates and staffers, according to a Bureau of Prisons memo issued yesterday. Read more from Chris Strohm.

Big Pharma Makes a Big Bet on a Fast Vaccine: Much about the coronavirus has defied belief—the speed at which it has spread around the world, the insidious way it penetrates the lungs, the unexpected impact it’s having on young people in some parts of the world while sparing them elsewhere. The most effective way to stop it would be to vaccinate the global population. For that to happen in the next year or so, an almost equally implausible set of circumstances has to occur: flawless scientific execution, breakneck trials, and a military-sty le manufacturing mobilization unlike any the pharmaceutical industry has put in place before. Normally it takes 10 or 15 years of careful lab work and meticulous testing to bring a totally new vaccine to market. For the coronavirus, the drug industry hopes to compress this time frame by tenfold. This may sound like mission impossible, but Big Pharma wouldn’t be working this hard if it didn’t think it had a shot at pulling it off. Read more from Robert Langreth and Cynthia Koons.

Javits Center Has 44 Virus Cases: New York’s Javits Convention Center has just 44 coronavirus patients in treatment so far, and it’ll hit a 1,700-bed capacity this Friday, the Pentagon said, in a signal that the emergency facility provided by the military can offer more aid to the city’s overwhelmed hospitals. Read more from Glen Carey and Roxana Tiron.

Meanwhile Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) confirmed yesterday the 1,000-bed U.S. Navy ship sent to New York City last week will treat coronavirus patients. The USNS Comfort was originally to provide backup support for non-virus infected hospital patients, as Pentagon officials said Friday it wasn’t equipped to treat infectious diseases en masse.

India Partially Lifts Malaria Drug Export Ban on Trump Call: India partially lifted a ban on the exports of a malaria drug after Trump sought supplies for the U.S., according to government officials with knowledge of the matter. Exports of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol will be allowed depending on availability of stock after meeting domestic requirements and existing orders, said the government officials, who asked not to be identified citing rules. Shipments will be restricted and permission will be on humanitarian ground, they added. Read more from Archana Chaudhary.

Meanwhile, former FDA leaders cautioned against shortchanging science in a rush to get unproven Covid-19 treatments like hydroxychloroquine to the marketplace. The comments yesterday, from Margaret Hamburg and Mark McClellan—both former FDA commissioners—join a growing body of voices in the scientific community warning about providing “false hope” to patients looking for a treatment. Read more from jeannie Baumann and Jacquie Lee.

Health Systems Shed Doctors: Employment in both the health-care and social assistance sectors fell by 61,000 jobs in March, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For health care, the largest share of the loses were in dentist and physicians offices, which lost a combined 29,000 jobs in March, BLS data show. Hospital systems, including Hillcrest HealthCare in Oklahoma, have furloughed health-care providers and support staff because they’ve had to put on hold some lucrative elective surgeries and other procedures as patients stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Some groups have pointed out that the Health and Human Services Department has yet to distribute any of the $100 billion in emergency funding earmarked for hospitals and health services. “Given our hospitals’ urgent need for this support, we hope the administration will move forward quickly with a plan to distribute these funds,” said Erin O’Malley, senior director of policy for America’s Essential Hospitals. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

N.Y. Hospitals ‘Redline’ While Virus Cases Hint at a Plateau: New figures are suggesting that New York’s coronavirus cases may have plateaued for now. The estimate from state officials was heavily qualified, however. If daily patient admissions remain steady, the level of deaths and intensive-care demands will require hospitals in the metropolitan area to operate at what state officials called an unsustainable pace.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday the virus-related death rate was effectively flat for two days. That built on what Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday called “glimmers of progress” in the virus battle in the U.S. Italy reported the lowest number of new coronavirus infections in nearly three weeks. Cuomo said that social distancing policies begun two weeks ago in New York appear to have led to the rough leveling of deaths at under 600 a day, down from 630 on Friday. However, he cautione d that infections could easily rise with less social distancing.

As it is, New York City is stretched. It is reviewing options for taking in many hundreds of dead daily, which could include using city land for temporary mass graves. And the city’s hospitals are on the edge, even after expanding capacity in recent weeks by adding thousands of beds and clearing patients out of existing ones. Read more from Michelle Fay Cortez, Caleb Melby and Christian Berthelsen.

Eased Fetal Tissue Research Rules Sought: Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar yesterday telling him to “immediately lift restrictions on human fetal tissue research, which are preventing scientists from advancing important studies to potentially prevent, treat and cure” coronavirus, according to a statement. Due to Trump administration restrictions on research at the NIH using fetal tissue, researchers are unable to use human fetal tissue to develop models of Covid-19 that could “test potential vaccines and treatments,” they said in the letter. Read the letter here.

Private Medicare Plans to Get Nearly 1.7% Hike: The federal government will increase baseline payment rates for private Medicare health plans by an average of 1.66% in 2021. That’s more than 0.7 percentage points higher than the 0.93% increase that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had initially proposed in January for Medicare Advantage plans, according to the agency’s 2021 rate announcement released yesterday.

In a statement, Allyson Schwartz, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance, said the group is encouraged that the CMS is protecting seniors’ coverage “with a rate that, while less than the rate increase allotted for 2020, represents an improvement from the Advance Notice issued earlier this year.” Read more from Tony Pugh.



Campaign Trail


Biden Talks With Trump on Virus: Trump and his likely Democratic challenger Joe Biden spoke over telephone yesterday about the coronavirus outbreak after the former vice president offered to share with the administration his ideas for combating the pandemic. Both sides offered positive initial readouts of the 15-minute discussion, with the president calling it “really good,” and Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield saying it was a “good call.” Bedingfield said Biden used the call to share “several suggestions for actions the administration can take now to address” the pandemic. Jennifer Epstein has more.

John Lewis Endorses Biden: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an icon of the Civil Rights movement, endorsed Biden today, becoming the latest Democrat to support the former vice president as he tries to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination. Lewis’ endorsement comes as Biden has amassed a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates over his only remaining competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Biden is looking to extend that lead today when Wisconsin holds its primary contest. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Wisconsin Primary to Proceed Today: The Wisconsin primary will proceed as scheduled today, after the state Supreme Court blocked a last-minute attempt by Gov. Tony Evers (D) to postpone in-person votes by an executive order. The state court on a 4-2 vote sided with Republicans who argued that the governor lacked the authority to change the date of the election, meaning that in-person votes will go on despite his stay-at-home order over coronavirus worries. In a separate blow to Evers on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a deadline for mailing absentee ballots in the primary. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.



Other News Stories


American, United Slash NY Flights: American Airlines will slash daily flights from New York-area airports by 95%, joining United in eliminating most operations in the nation’s largest city as the increase in Covid-19 cases guts travel demand. Daily departures from New York’s LaGuardia airport will tumble to eight today through May 6, with a drop to three at John F. Kennedy International, American told employees late Sunday. Departures from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International will fall to two on April 9, bringing the total for the three airports to 13. That compares with an average of 271 in April 2019. Read more from Mary Schlangenstein.


FAA Clarifies Guidelines as Trump Mulls Restrictions: Airports generally can’t ban flights from coronavirus hotspots, the FAA said in a statement yesterday, even if airlines reduce flights themselves, Courtney Rozen reports. Trump also said at a press briefing last night that he was considering grounding some domestic air travel. Last week he had said he was thinking of limiting travel between coronavirus hot spots, though he didn’t specify which cities would be affected. “We’re looking at it, and the airlines have been cutting their routes,” he said. “We need some flights for emergency use.”


United Sued for Refusing to Refund Fare: United Airlines was sued by a passenger for refusing to issue refunds for canceled flights, three days after U.S. regulators ordered airlines to reimburse customers, Chris Dolmetsch reports. The passenger, Jacob Rudolph, filed the suit in federal court in Chicago yesterday, saying he was denied a refund request for three plane tickets he purchased in January to travel to Minneapolis/St. Paul from Hilton Head Island, S.C., on April 4. “United has engaged in unfair and deceptive conduct through its policy to issue refunds, limiting and forcing customers into a rebooked flight or travel voucher instead of returning their money,” Rudolph said in his suit, which seeks class-action status .


Boeing Halts All Jet Manufacturing: Boeing is suspending work at its 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina, temporarily shutting down its last commercial-jet factory still operating amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Manufacturing at the factory will stop late April 8, the planemaker said in a statement yesterday. The company said Sunday that its Seattle-area manufacturing hub would remain closed indefinitely, as state health officials struggle to contain the virus and suppliers show signs of stress.


The pandemic injects additional uncertainty into Boeing’s production plans for the 787, which along with the 737 Max has been a critical source of cash. Demand for long-haul travel has cratered as airlines park fleets, and analysts widely expect Boeing to slash Dreamliner output when work eventually resumes. The Max, Boeing’s best-selling jet, has been grounded more than a year after two deadly crashes. Read more from Julie Johnsson.


Labor, Employment Picks Reach Hill by Phone: Trump’s picks for the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will interview with senators and staffers responsible for approving the nominations over the next two weeks, sources familiar with the process said. The interviews, an important part of the nominee-vetting process, will be conducted over phone or other means due to the congressional recess and social distancing measures. Read more from Jaclyn Diaz, Paige Smith, and Chris Opfer.


Inspector General Picks: Trump yesterday sent five nominations to the Senate, including Jason Abend to be the inspector general for the Department of Defense yesterday. Glenn Fine has been serving in an acting capacity in the role since 2016.


Andrew De Mello, a Department of Justice attorney, was nominated fill the inspector general post at the Department of Education, a position that has been vacant for more than a year. The White House last year backtracked on its pick for acting inspector general after congressional Democrats said the nomination of Phil Rosenfelt, an Education Department official, posed a conflict of interest, Andrew Kreighbaum reports.


Peter Michael Thomson was nominated to be inspector general for the Central Intelligence Agency, while Brian Miller was nominated to serve in the new role created under the third coronavirus response package, special inspector general for pandemic recovery. Democrats have criticized the nomination of Miller, who is Trump’s lawyer, to oversee the multi-trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus effort.


Trump Says Free Market Will Curb U.S. Oil Output: Trump gave the strongest signal yet the U.S. might not join Saudi Arabia, Russia and other major producers in coordinated oil-production cuts, even as plunging crude prices put thousands of American shale jobs at risk. While OPEC and its allies prepare for a meeting on Thursday to forge an unprecedented output-cut deal, Trump told reporters in Washington that the free market would work to curb American production. Though the president has touted global output cuts of 10 million to 15 million barrels a day to stabilize prices, he’s been reticent to commit the U.S. to such an effort, suggesting instead that Saudi Arabia and Russia should bear the brunt. Read more from Stephen Cunningham.



Today on the Hill


White House

  • 10:00 am – In-House Pool Call Time
  • 3:00 pm – Trump participates in America CARES : Small Business Relief Update
  • 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing


  • On recess and scheduled to return April 20th
  • The Senate will hold pro forma sessions Thursday at 10 a.m.


  • On recess
  • The House will hold a pro forma today at 11:30 a.m.


Legislation Introduced Yesterday


  1. H.R.6429 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish in the Legislative Branch a National Commission on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic in the United States.
  2. H.R.6431 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the creation of a national commission to prepare for future national emergencies, and for other purposes.
  3. H.R.6434 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 49, United States Code, to allow certain urbanized areas with a population of over 200,000 to be eligible under the small transit intensive cities formula, and for other purposes.
  4. H.R.6437 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure that all communities have access to urgently needed COVID-19 testing, treatment, public health information, and relief benefits regardless of immigration status or limited English proficiency, and for other purposes.
  5. H.R.6445 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To modify nutrition programs to address the Coronavirus Disease 2019, and for other purposes.
  6. H.R.6447 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 40, United States Code, is amended with respect to the maximum contribution for certain projects or activities carried out in certain distressed counties, and for other purposes.
  7. H.R.6452 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Secretary of Transportation to repay the credit risk premiums paid with respect to certain railroad infrastructure loans after the obligations attached to such loans have been satisfied.
  8. H.R.6454 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)To forgive certain disaster loans, and for other purposes.

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