COVID-19 Federal Update 5-5-20

May 5, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: (last Friday, 63,019), Monday 68,606, Tuesday 69,925

Happening on the Hill

Democrats to Challenge Pick to Oversee Pandemic Funds: Senate Democrats are ready to challenge a promise of “fairness and impartiality” by Brian Miller, Trump’s nominee to oversee trillions of dollars being spent in the effort to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General” and will work “to uncover fraud, waste and abuse,” Miller said in remarks released before his scheduled appearance this afternoon, when the Senate Banking Committee will weigh his nomination as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, or SIGPR. He said he has “close to 30 years of experience in the federal government,” and supporters have emphasized his roles as a watchdog under pres idents of both parties, probing health-care fraud for the Justice Department and monitoring spending at the General Services Administration.

Yet Democrats on the Republican-led committee are expected to question his independence in light of his current post — as a White House lawyer who participated in Trump’s impeachment defense. ”Your recent experience as a legal advocate for the president and the White House raises questions about your ability to immediately shift to a position where independence from the White House is a requirement,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a letter to Miller yesterday. Read more from Saleha Mohsin and Laura Davison.

Hoyer Says House Timetable for Return Uncertain: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told fellow Democrats yesterday that there’s no timetable for them to return to Washington for votes on the next coronavirus bill or other legislation, according to members and officials who participated in a caucus-wide call. Democratic House members are being asked to send their suggestions for the a new pandemic response measure to House leaders and committee chairmen by Friday, one official said. Read more from Billy House and Erik Wasson.

Senate Confirms Nuclear Regulator Watchdog Pick: The Senate voted 87-0 on Monday to confirm Trump’s pick for the watchdog agency that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Robert Feitel, who prior to his confirmation was a Department of Justice trial attorney, will serve as the agency’s inspector general. The IG office essentially runs separately from the agency and is tasked with rooting out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Feitel’s confirmation comes amid continued criticism of the president for firing inspector generals. Read more from Dean Scott.

Administration Says Task Force Shouldn’t Focus on Hearings: White House task force members need time to focus on the task at hand rather than preparing for congressional hearings, a senior administration official said yesterday. The official comments came in response to a report from The Hill that the White House was barring task force members from testifying to Congress this month. The official said concerns about transparency are unreasonable given daily press briefings and agency-led briefings with congressional committees, Greg Sullivan reports.

Democrats Seek Nursing Home Provisions: House Democrats want to expand inspections at nursing homes and bolster reporting of deaths at long-term care facilities. Members told reporters yesterday they’re also seeking more funds for protective equipment for workers at long-term facilities, where more than 10,000 residents and workers have died of the virus. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), said he expects to see legislation on this “sooner rather than later.” Rep. Jan Schkowsky (D-Ill.) said she believes Democrats will get “some support from Republicans who are seeing the same kind of startling statistic about these nursing homes,” Alex Ruoff reports.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday declined to directly respond to Trump saying he would demand a payroll tax cut in any future relief plan. She said there are many other needs, including expanded unemployment insurance and aid to state and local governments. “I’m not negotiating with the president on television,” she said during an interview on CNN. “There’s no need to be drawing any red line in the sand.” Read more from Laura Davison.

 

SBA Program

If you’re looking for a real-time list of public companies who have received SBA Cares Act loans, AI Margaret rom Factsquared has been reading SEC 8-Ks as they’re filed.

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Healthcare

Trump Pick for Pandemic IG Vows Vigilance: President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee trillions of dollars in the effort to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic pledged to “conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality.”  “I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General” and will work “to uncover fraud, waste and abuse,” Brian Miller said in prepared remarks released yesterday. He’s scheduled to face the Senate Banking Committee today at 2:30 p.m. in Washington as lawmakers weigh his nomination as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery. Created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) that Congress passed in March, the SIGPR’s purview will include key stimulus programs, including $454 billion in backstops to lending programs through the Federal Reserve, as well as money for airlines and defense companies. The central bank is leveraging funds from the Treasury Department into trillions of dollars in liquidity for the economy. Miller had experience as a watchdog earlier in his career, probing health-care fraud for the Justice Department and monitoring spending at the General Services Administration. But Democrats have questioned his independence in light of his current post as a top White House lawyer who participated in Trump’s impeachment defense. It’s unclear how deep Miller may probe if, as expected, he wins confirmation in the Republican-led Senate. Trump already has sought to rein in the post Miller would fill by limiting its communications with Congress.While Democrats demand aggressive oversight, the president has moved in recent weeks to strip power from inspectors general he views as disloyal. Trump dismissed one watchdog, criticized another for spotlighting reports of equipment shortages at hospitals and shunted another from a post overseeing pandemic spending beyond the Treasury Department. Read more from Saleha Mohsin and Laura Davison.

Democrats Seek Nursing Home Provisions: House Democrats want to expand inspections at nursing homes and bolster reporting of deaths at long-term care facilities. Members told reporters yesterday they’re also seeking more funds for protective equipment for workers at long-term face facilities, where more than 10,000 residents and workers have died of the virus. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), said he expects to see legislation on this “sooner rather than later.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she believes Democrats will get “some support from Republicans who are seeing the same kind of startling statistic about these nursing homes,” Alex Ruoff reports.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told fellow Democrats yesterday there is no timetable for them to return to Washington for votes on the next coronavirus bill or other legislation, according to members and officials who participated in a caucus-wide call. Democratic House members are being asked to send their suggestions for the a new pandemic response measure to House leaders and committee chairmen by Friday, one official said. Read more from Billy House and Erik Wasson.

Gilead Questioned on Remdesivir Supply Chain: Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day asking for details on the company’s plans for remdesivir, an anti-viral medication being studied to treat Covid-19, including measures to secure the supply chain, disclosures about taxpayer investment in the medication and pricing. “American taxpayers have made a big investment in remdesivir, but now in return, those who need treatment may get only a big bill while Gilead gets a big payoff,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), chairman of House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a statement yesterday. Read the letter here.

At $4,500 for a round of treatment, remdesivir could be reasonably priced and still generate over $2 billion in revenue for the biotech, according to analysts at Piper Sandler. That’s the maximum price that the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review had recommended for a 10-day treatment of remdesivir, which received emergency approval from U.S. regulators Friday. Gilead promised to give away the first 1.5 million vials but has been quiet on its pricing plans after that supply is used up. Read more.

Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said there are signals of hope for the potential use of remdesivir. The WHO plans to engage in talks with Gilead and the U.S. government over how the drug can be made more widely available as further data emerges on its effectiveness.

Jaguar Health Questioned for Drug Price Hike: House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called on Jaguar Health to reverse its recent decision to increase the price of Mytesi, a drug used to relieve diarrhea as a result of HIV/AIDS medication. “We are concerned that the nearly three-fold price increase your company imposed” may prevent Americans from accessing Mytesi if approved for use during the coronavirus outbreak,” Maloney and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to CEO Lisa Conte. In addition to reversing the price increase, the two requested all communications regarding the decision to increase the list price, Megan Howard reports.

Bill Seeks NIH Study on Long-Term Virus Effects: Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) yesterday unveiled a bipartisan bill that would direct the National Institutes of Health to “conduct a longitudinal study on mild, moderate, and severe cases of COVID-19 to ensure we gain a full understanding of both the short and long-term health impacts” of the disease, according to a statement. Companion legislation will be unveiled in the House by Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), according to the statement.

Inspections of ICE Facilities Sought: Sens. Rosen, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and 24 others called for the Homeland Security Department’s Office of Inspector General to conduct an assessment, including site inspections, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities across the country to determine whether ICE has “sufficiently adapted operations, management, standards, and conditions to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees,” according to a statement. Read the letter here.

White House Disclaims CDC Toll Projection: An internal projection created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the nation’s coronavirus outbreak vastly accelerating by June to more than 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day—far more than the country is currently experiencing. The White House disclaimed the CDC projection, calling it an “internal CDC document” but saying it had not been presented to Trump’s coronavirus task force. The White House said it didn’t comport with the task force’s own analysis and projections.

It isn’t clear who produced the document, obtained and published first by The New York Times, or what assumptions underlie such forecasts. The projections, on two slides of a 19-slide deck, are dated May 1 and attributed to a “data and analytics task force.” The document carries the seal of both the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. Alex Wayne has more.

Reopenings Muddy Trump Death Toll Projection: The Trump administration’s push to get states to reopen their economies clouds efforts to predict the toll of coronavirus and increases uncertainty about how much Americans will suffer from a little-understood illness. Trump on Sunday said that he expects up to 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S., a significantly higher estimate that comes after over 60,000 Americans have already died. Meanwhile, FEMA is preparing for another wave of death, looking to place mobile morgues across the nation.

Evidence suggests that after weeks of social distancing and home isolation, the U.S. has been successful in flattening the curve, experts say, as Covid-19 deaths stabilize at around 2,000 a day. But because of the time it takes to test patients and for severe cases to develop, outcomes in states that are aggressively on the path to reopening—such as Georgia, Florida, and Texas—may not be seen for two or three weeks, said Brian Castrucci, president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health charity. Read more from Emma Court and Angelica LaVito.

Ambitious Vaccine Timeline Requires Risks: A Covid-19 vaccine could happen in as little time as nine months as federal government looks to eliminate “dead space,” said Peter Marks, who oversees vaccine regulation as the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. His comments mark one of the shortest and most ambitious timelines laid out by government scientists at the forefront of the coronavirus response. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has projected a vaccine would take up to 18 months to develop since the outbreak first began. But there have been questions about whether the Trump administration is overestimating its ability to fast track a vaccine.

“We have to make sure that whatever comes out of this process meets our high standards for safety and efficacy for vaccines,” Marks said during an Axios event on medical research during a crisis. “That said, in this particular crisis we need to try to move things through very quickly to get there—working meticulously—because there’s just so much at stake here.” Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Virus Tests to Get Tighter Oversight: Blood tests that can tell whether patients have been infected with the new coronavirus will get stricter oversight from U.S. health regulators, after some manufacturers allegedly made wrong claims and questions mounted about the accuracy of some of the tests. The FDA yesterday said that makers of the tests, which since mid-March have been permitted to be sold without any government sign-off, will have to apply for authorization within 10 days of their products reaching market. The FDA also laid out requirements tests must meet to gain clearance. Anna Edney and Kristen V. Brown have more.

Meanwhile, U.S. researchers plan to track thousands of children and their family members over six months to determine how they are affected by the virus, the National Institutes of Health said yesterday. The study has already begun enrolling participants and aims to sign up 6,000 people from families already participating in pediatric studies. Researchers will follow them over the course of six months, with caregivers taking nasal swabs every other week and mailing the samples to researchers. Read more.

Synthetic Antibody Kills Virus in Lab: Scientists grew a monoclonal antibody that can defeat the novel coronavirus in the lab, an early but promising step in the push to find treatments and curb the pandemic’s spread. The experimental antibody may help prevent or treat Covid-19 and related diseases, either alone or in combination with a drug, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications. More research is needed to see if the findings are confirmed in a clinical setting, Berend-Jan Bosch of Utrecht Uni versity in the Netherlands and colleagues wrote in the paper. Read more.

100 Million Sample Tubes Sought by HHS: The federal government is looking to buy 100 million transport tubes that are used to carry Covid-19 samples and distribute them to states, according to the General Services Administration. HHS said May 1 it’s seeking proposals from potential contractors that could supply Remel’s viral transport media. A contract would still need to be negotiated and signed before it’s final, Shira Stein reports.

Tens of Millions Could Lose Coverage: Up to 43 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health coverage if the unemployment rate reaches 20%, according to a report from the Urban Institute released yesterday. A giant shift in how Americans get health care is likely already underway, with millions moving away from getting coverage through an employer to enrolling in state Medicaid programs or the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the report shows. The number of those who have no health insurance could grow by 7 million to 12 million, according to the projections. Read more.

A separate estimate last week suggested almost 13 million Americans have already lost coverage amid the outbreak. The Labor Department will report unemployment statistics on Friday. Economists project the unemployment rate will spike from 4.4% in March to 16% in April, in the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Embattled Juul to Scale Back Global Reach, Relocate Headquarters: Juul Labs plans to move its headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., scale back its overseas operations and cut almost a third of staff, said a person familiar with the company’s plans. The moves represent a dramatic reversal for the once-unstoppable company, which has come under regulatory pressure as it’s increasingly blamed by lawmakers and consumers for igniting a teen vaping epidemic.

The embattled e-cigarette company is planning to exit South Korea and reduce its presence in France, the person said, adding that the company is also exploring its options in Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. Read more from Angelica LaVito.

Trump Uninsured Immigrants Ban Can’t Be Enforced Pending Lawsuit: The Trump administration can’t enforce a ban on the entry of immigrants without health insurance while litigation plays out over the presidential proclamation announcing the policy, a divided Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday. The government is unlikely to prevail on the merits, given that “the proclamation here was issued with virtually no factual findings, minimal reasoning, and an extremely limited window for public comment,” Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote in a wide-ranging opinion. Read more from Mike Leonard.

 

Transportation

Virus Travel Guide: New Ford Lobbyist: The U.S. travel industry submitted to the White House and U.S. governors guidance for travel-related businesses as the country starts to reopen.  “We want political leaders and the public alike to see that our industry is setting a very high standard for reducing the risk of coronavirus in our businesses, and that the practices in place to achieve that standard are consistent through every phase of the travel experience,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement yesterday. “As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home.” The association collaborated with medical experts, businesses and organizations on the “Travel in the New Normal” guidance, made up of six main focuses to prompt businesses to adapt operations to protect the health of workers and customers. The guidelines include possible redesign of public spaces, including “touchless solutions” for ticketing and food purchases; as well as enhanced sanitation and health-screening measures for employees. “We will not encourage people to travel until public health experts and authorities have made it clear that it’s the right time to do so,” Dow said.

Coronavirus Impact on Freight, Aerospace: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent a letter yesterday to representatives of the infrastructure and freight industries asking them to relate how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected their supply chain, freight movement, transportation networks, and consumers, as well as ways to remain productive in the event of future unforeseen events. Wicker sent similar letters yesterday to the Universities Space Research Association, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, and Aerospace Industries Association.

Exposing the Virus’s Vast, Deadly U.S. Disparity: The coronavirus pandemic is exposing the racial and age inequalities embedded in the nation’s bus and subway stops, as transit workers contract the disease in stunning numbers. In New York City alone, 98 transit workers had died as of May 1: bus drivers, track workers, conductors and station agents. Even as lawmakers and public officials publicly thank transit workers for being there during the pandemic, transit unions in some cities have threatened to walk off the job, saying employers aren’t enforcing policies to keep them safe.  The demographics and responsibilities of transit operators roll up numerous high-risk factors for contracting Covid-19. Just more than half of the nation’s transit operators are people of color, according to U.S. Census data; roughly 30% are black, and 14% are Hispanic. Sixty-five percent are older than 45. Fifteen percent are older than 65. Courtney Rozen tracks responses from industry groups on the risks.

McConnell Aide Lobbies for Ford: Laura Dove, who served as the Senate Republicans’ top floor aide under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), will join Ford as director of transportation policy, the company said in a statement yesterday. She will be responsible for managing Ford’s legislative and regulatory priorities, Courtney Rozen reports.

McConnell called her one of his “closest advisers” when she retired from the Senate in February, after more than 20 years of working in the chamber. Ethics rules state that Dove cannot push Ford’s priorities in the Senate for a year after leaving her job at the chamber. However, she is allowed to lobby the House and the executive branch. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is married to McConnell.

Don Stewart, McConnell’s former deputy chief of staff known around Washington as “Stew,” also drove over to the auto industry after leaving the Senate majority leader’s office last March. He’s now the executive vice president of public affairs at the Alliance For Automotive Innovation, an association with members including Ford, Honda and Ferrari.

Meanwhile, yesterday Trump nominated Joel Szabat to be under secretary at the Department of Transportation, according to a White House statement. Szabat has been acting in that capacity since June 2019 and previously was the department’s assistant secretary for Aviation and International Affairs after being confirmed in January 2019. Politico reported that, during his latest confirmation, Szabat failed to disclose campaign contributions to McConnell and didn’t inform the Senate Commerce Committee about his donations to other lawmakers.

Pentagon Chief Chides FCC on Ligado Wireless Deal: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said regulators had used incomplete data in approving Ligado Networks for a mobile network that the military says threatens interference to GPS. The Federal Communications Commission relied on Ligado-funded test results that used 14 receivers, but U.S. agencies examined 80 devices and found Ligado’s operations would cause harmful interference, Esper said in a May 1 letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Esper dismissed one of Ligado’s selling points, saying the proposal doesn’t meaningfully bolster U.S. capability in fast 5G networks. The Defense Department is moving “aggressively” to identify other airwaves it can share for use by 5G, Esper said. “Ligado’s test, with the limited number of units utilized, is not reflective of the negative effect Ligado’s amended proposal would have on both government and commercial use,” Esper added. Read more from Todd Shields and Tony Capaccio.

Biofuel Giant Sees More Driving Than Before: For now, coronavirus stay-at-home measures are keeping cars off the road, slashing demand for biofuels. But as economies reopen and people settle into post-pandemic life, they will likely avoid mass transportation and drive more, according to Todd Becker, CEO of the Omaha-based Green Plains. “We believe the future could look a little different as companies and individuals look for ways to avoid mass transit and air travel and drive more, which could be a potential tailwind,” Becker said in an earnings call with analysts yesterday. “Biofuels will continue to be an important and strategic part of the fuel supply.” Read more from Isis Almeida.

 

Economy

Gilead Questioned on Remdesivir Supply Chain: Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day asking for details on the company’s plans for remdesivir, an anti-viral medication being studied to treat Covid-19, including measures to secure the supply chain, disclosures about taxpayer investment in the medication and pricing. “American taxpayers have made a big investment in remdesivir, but now in return, those who need treatment may get only a big bill while Gilead gets a big payoff,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a statement yesterday. Read the letter here.

Treasury Asked to Alter Worker Retention Guidance: A bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the Treasury Department to reverse its current guidance and allow employers providing health insurance to furloughed workers to be eligible for the employee retention credit. Members, in a letter yesterday, told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reconsider the determination in light of “the importance of providing access to affordable health care” amid the public health situation. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) were among its authors. Teaganne Finn has more.

Also from Neal yesterday, the top tax-writer called for a 90-day suspension of tariffs on products related to the coronavirus pandemic response. Neal said his committee is urging suspensions after reading a U.S. International Trade Commission report on imports of medical supplies and gear. “These suspensions must be subject to a straightforward and easily administrable process for affected stakeholders to object,” he said in a statement, Megan Howard reports.

Big Banks Pull Ahead in Small Business Aid: The largest U.S. banks stepped up lending to dominate the U.S. government’s small-business rescue program after playing an undersized role in its early days. Banks with assets of $10 billion or more processed 68% of Paycheck Protection Program loans last week, data released on Sunday show, compared with about 40% during the program’s first round from April 3 to April 16. That translates to about $24 billion of PPP loans a day from the largest banks, more than double the daily pace set by that g roup in the first phase. Read more from Zachary R. Mider.

Ambitious Vaccine Timeline Requires Risks: A Covid-19 vaccine could happen in as little as nine months as the federal government looks to eliminate “dead space,” said Peter Marks, who oversees vaccine regulation as the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. His comments mark one of the shortest and most ambitious timelines laid out by government scientists at the forefront of the coronavirus response. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has projected a vaccine wou ld take up to 18 months to develop since the outbreak first began. But there have been questions about whether the Trump administration is overestimating its ability to fast track a vaccine.

“We have to make sure that whatever comes out of this process meets our high standards for safety and efficacy for vaccines,” Marks said during an Axios event on medical research during a crisis. “That said, in this particular crisis we need to try to move things through very quickly to get there—working meticulously—because there’s just so much at stake here.” Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Wisconsin Sued Over Social Distancing Rules: Two Wisconsin residents are claiming in a lawsuit that the state’s “Safer at Home” social distancing order violates their constitutional rights by effectively banning religious worship and political gatherings while allowing “hundreds of customers into Costco at any given time.” The public safety measures — put in place to stem the rate of infections and deaths in Wisconsin during the coronavirus pandemic — are overly intrusive and “cannot survive even basic scrutiny,” according to a complain t filed yesterday with the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Read more from Erik Larson.

IRS Shuts Kansas City Campus for Virus: The IRS is temporarily re-closing its campus in Kansas City, Mo., after an employee reportedly tested positive for Covid-19—setting back the agency’s plans for tackling its mail backlog and resuming customer service operations at that center. The facility will need to be shut down for a deep cleaning, a local chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union said Monday in a Facebook post. An IRS spokeswoman said the cleaning may take up to seven days. The move comes after the IRS asked thousand s of employees to return to their worksites beginning April 27 to perform tasks including opening mail, processing paper tax returns, and taking phone calls. Read more from Allyson Versprille.

 

Campaign Trail

Trump’s Messaging Looks Past Virus: Donald Trump’s campaign is changing its message to refocus voters’ attention on what it predicts will be a rosy post-coronavirus world. The president’s re-election effort is gripped by polls showing Americans broadly souring on Trump and his performance managing the virus outbreak and the economic fallout. To combat that, the Trump campaign is reupping the winning slogan of 2016, “Make America Great Again.”The new campaign message is that he can rebuild the economy better than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who the Trump camp argues co-piloted a sluggish rebound from the 2008 financial crisis, according to two officials familiar with the strategy. They asked not to be identified discussing internal strategy.

A new ad released Sunday stitches together images of health-care workers cheering, Trump talking at the State of the Union about “safeguarding our citizens,” and Democratic governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California praising steps he took to help states get some equipment to fight the coronavirus. “We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen and we’re going to do it again,” Trump says in the ad, which he ends with his signature slogan, a phrase temporarily replaced by “Keep America Great” before the virus struck.

Voters were generally put off by the president’s behavior at daily press briefings billed as updates to the response of the coronavirus. The lengthy news conferences devolved into quarrels with reporters, partisan grievances and conflicting messaging and information on the virus, exemplified in Trump’s April 24 musing about using light and disinfectant to treat Covid-19 patients. The pandemic, in which nearly 1.2 million Americans have been infected and more than 67,000 killed, has — even without his briefing performances — obliterated Trump’s primary case for re-election: the strength of the U.S. economy. The president has an opportunity to take that message on the road today, as he travels to the crucial swing state of Arizona to visit a Honeywell International plant making medical supplies to fight the pandemic. Read more from Mario Parker

Other stories

U.S. Targets Expiring Iran Arms Embargo: The Trump administration is escalating tensions with allies as it seeks to renew a U.N. arms embargo on Iran that’s set to expire this year, threatening to kill what’s left of the nuclear agreement the U.S. quit two years ago if countries don’t go along. Officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo are warning that the U.S. could try to force a “snapback” of sanctions against Tehran by all United Nations Security Council members as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord if the arms embarg o is allowed to expire in October. “We are operating under the assumption that we will be able to renew the arms embargo,” Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, told reporters last week. If council members don’t go along, he warned, “we are well within our rights” to snap back all U.N. sanctions. That’s not an interpretation many countries agree with. Read more from David Wainer and Jonathan Tirone.

China Directs Fury at Trump’s Top Diplomat: Chinese state media unleashed a torrent of criticism against Pompeo — calling him “evil” and a liar — as Beijing sought to push back against the U.S.’s virus allegations without prompting a confrontation with Trump. State media published a series of commentaries lashing out at Pompeo after he said there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus outbreak sprung from a high-security virology lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. The official Xinhua News Agency said the top U.S. diplomat was speaking “nonsense,” while a newscaster from China Central Television read a commentary accusing him of “spitting poison.” “U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo picked up his own lies in a May 3 interview with the media,” newscaster Li Zimeng said. “If the cheating behaviors from evil politicians like Pompeo continue, the U.S.’s ‘Make America Great Again’ could become merely a joke.” Read more.

Meanwhile, the European Union will put forward a proposal to the World Health Assembly calling for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The assembly will consider the proposal at its May 18 meeting, Morrison told reporters in Canberra today. He added that he wrote to all Group of 20 leaders this week in his bid to create support for the investigation into how the virus started and spread. Australia’s previous calls for t he probe have also raised the ire of China, its largest trading partner. Read more from Jason Scott and Samson Ellis.

Nominations: Trump sent 30 nominations to the Senate yesterday, including Russell Vought to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to a White House statement. Trump also announced his intent to nominate Louis Bremer to be an assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and low intensity conflict and Patrick Hovakimian to be general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Anti-Robocall Law Exemption Faces Test at Supreme Court: The Supreme Court tomorrow will hear argument as to whether automatic phone calls for government debt collection should be exempt from an anti-robocall law. Businesses are hopeful the court will invalidate the law’s exemption for the debt calls—and then strike down the entire anti-robocall statute as unconstitutional. There’s a “good chance” justices will find the debt exemption unconstitutional, said Christine Reilly, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. The question is whether they’ll take the “nuclear option” and strike down the entire statute, she said. Read more from Jon Reid.

Esper Chides FCC on Ligado Wireless Deal: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said regulators had used incomplete data in approving Ligado Networks for a mobile network that the Armed Forces says threatens interference with GPS. The Federal Communications Commission relied on Ligado-funded test results that used 14 receivers, but U.S. agencies examined 80 devices and found Ligado’s operations would cause harmful interference, Esper said in a May 1 letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). Read more from Todd Shields and Tony Capaccio.

Trump Sued Over Fish Protections: The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are failing to protect alewife, blueback herring, and Pacific marten under the Endangered Species Act, conservation groups claim in separate lawsuits filed against the agencies in Washington, D.C., and California federal courts yesterday. Four groups say the National Marine Fisheries Service made multiple legal errors when it decided against listing alewife and blueback herring, also known as river herring, as threatened un der the ESA, according to the lawsuit, Maya Earls reports.

Census Restarts Some Field Ops: The U.S. Census Bureau said in a statement it will begin a phased restart of some 2020 Census field operations this week in select remote areas where mail is not an option for responses. The bureau had ceased this effort March 18 after just 3 days because of the coronavirus threat, reports Shaun Courtney.

Embattled Juul to Relocate Headquarters to Washington: Juul Labs plans to move its headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., scale back its overseas operations and cut almost a third of staff, said a person familiar with the company’s plans. The moves represent a dramatic reversal for the once-unstoppable company, which has come under regulatory pressure as it’s increasingly blamed by lawmakers and consumers for igniting a teen vaping epidemic. The embattled e-cigarette company is planning to exit South Korea and reduce its presence in France, the person said, adding that the company is also exploring its options in Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. Read more from Angelica LaVito.

 

 

Today on the Hill

 

White House

 

  • 9:00 am – out of town Pool Call Time
  • 10:00 am – Trump departs the White House en route to Joint Base Andrews
  • 10:10 am – Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews
  • 10:20 am – Trump departs Washington, DC en route to Phoenix, AZ
  • 1:40 pm – Trump arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • 1:50 pm – Trump departs Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport en route to Honeywell International Inc.
  • 1:55 pm – Trump arrives at Honeywell International Inc.
  • 3:30 pm – Trump delivers remarks at Honeywell International Inc.
  • 4:05 pm – Trump departs Honeywell International, Inc.
  • 4:10 pm – Trump arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • 4:20 pm – Trump departs Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport en route to Washington, DC
  • 9:10 pm – Trump arrive at Joint Base Andrews
  • 9:20 pm – Trump departs Joint Base Andrews en route to the White House
  • 9:30 pm Trump arrives at the White House

 

Senate

  • 9:00 am – Senate meets; will consider William Evanina to be Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center
  • 9:30am –  Senate Intelligence Committee hears from Director of National Intelligence nominee John Ratcliffe at confirmation hearing; 106 Dirksen
  • Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Ben Cardin will try to pass legislation today to require public daily, weekly reporting of certain virus relief program data, Politico reports
  • 2:30pm – Senate Banking Committee hears from Brian Miller, nominated to be the Treasury Department’s special inspector general for pandemic recovery at nomination hearing; 106 Dirksen

House

  • 10:45am – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds ceremonial swearing in for Rep.-elect Kweisi Mfume
  • House leaders last week abandoned plans to reconvene today, citing concern about Covid-19 spread

Both chambers are trying to figure out next steps on response to the coronavirus

 

Yesterday’s Legislative Action

 

  1. H.R.6662— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To authorize the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to become the sole owner and distributer of certain medical equipment in the event of a covered emergency; to establish a Joint Congressional Committee on Defense Production; and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Brown, Anthony G. [D-MD-4] (Introduced 05/01/2020) Cosponsors: (9)Committees: House – Financial Services; Transportation and Infrastructure; Energy and Commerce; Rules Latest Action: House – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  2. H.R.6669— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To modify the Federal cost share of assistance provided under the emergency declaration issued by the President on March 13, 2020 relating to COVID-19, to modify the activities eligible for assistance under such emergency declaration, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4] (Introduced 05/01/2020) Cosponsors: (5)Committees: House – Transportation and Infrastructure Latest Action: House – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  3. H.R.6684— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To improve flood protection and water resources enhancement and utilization along the Sacramento River and in the Yolo Bypass region of California, to improve policies and procedures for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-6] (Introduced 05/01/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Transportation and Infrastructure Latest Action: House – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
  4. H.R.6687— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide assistance to individuals affected by a pandemic, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria [D-NY-14] (Introduced 05/01/2020) Cosponsors: (0)Committees: House – Transportation and Infrastructure; Budget Latest Action: House – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  5. S.3588— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to secure justice for victims of novel coronavirus in the United States and abroad. Sponsor: Sen. Hawley, Josh [R-MO] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (0)Committees: Senate – Foreign Relations Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
  6. S.3589— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to amend the higher education emergency relief fund under the CARES Act to restrict eligibility to institutions of higher education that owned endowment assets whose average monthly value was equal to or less than $10,000,000,000 in 2019, unless the institution expends additional institutional funds on higher education emergency relief. Sponsor: Sen. Hawley, Josh [R-MO] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (4)Committees: Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  7. S.3590— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize certain provisions, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Barrasso, John [R-WY] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: Senate – Environment and Public Works Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  8. S.3591— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, to provide for water pollution control activities and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Barrasso, John [R-WY] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: Senate – Environment and Public Works Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  9. S.3592— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to establish an exception to jurisdictional immunity for a foreign state that discharges a biological weapon, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (2)Committees: Senate – JudiciaryLatest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  10. S.3593— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand and modify the credit for increasing research activities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (5)Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.
  11. S.3594— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to eliminate the credit for qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles for certain taxpayers. Sponsor: Sen. Braun, Mike [R-IN] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.
  12. S.3595— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to require a longitudinal study on the impact of COVID-19.Sponsor: Sen. Rosen, Jacky [D-NV] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  13. S.3596— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to make technical corrections to the CARES Act to remove all tax liability associated with loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program. Sponsor: Sen. Braun, Mike [R-IN] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.
  14. S.3597— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to appropriate funds for the SPR Petroleum Account. Sponsor: Sen. Hoeven, John [R-ND] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (9)Committees: Senate – Appropriations Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Appropriations.
  15. S.3598— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A bill to require commercial airlines to provide cash reimbursements, and to authorize the Secretary of State to waive or reimburse travel expenses, for any United States citizen who is evacuated from a foreign country and repatriated to the United States due to travel restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 or any future pandemic or international crisis. Sponsor: Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (7)Committees: Senate – Commerce, Science, and Transportation Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
  16. S.Res.555— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A resolution recognizing and supporting the advocates, counselors, volunteers, and first responders who served survivors on an emergency basis during National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sponsor: Sen. Grassley, Chuck [R-IA] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (4)Committees: Senate – Judiciary Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  17. S.Res.556— 116th Congress (2019-2020)A resolution designating May 1, 2020, as the “United States Foreign Service Day” in recognition of the men and women who have served, or are presently serving, in the Foreign Service of the United States, and honoring the members of the Foreign Service who have given their lives in the line of duty. Sponsor: Sen. Sullivan, Dan [R-AK] (Introduced 05/04/2020) Cosponsors: (12)Committees: Senate – Judiciary Latest Action: Senate – 05/04/2020 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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