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Legislative / Policy Update

The Next Package. It’s unclear what the next round of coronavirus legislation will be called – Corona-4, Phase 4, Corona 3.5, CARES 2. Whatever it’s called, there now seems to be consensus among the key players that lawmakers will need to provide more federal relief as soon as possible.

Following the March 27 enactment of the CARES Act, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi envisioned Phase 4 as a broad-ranging legislative package that might even include an infrastructure package with a 10-year price tag of as much as the $2 trillion supported by President Trump. Those goals have now been scaled back, given (a) Republican opposition and (b) the possibility that leadership may need to pass the next round of legislation by unanimous consent if it’s not safe for lawmakers to return to Washington.

In remarks to the press on Friday, Pelosi said, “Let’s do the same bill we just did, make some changes to make it current.” In an April 4 Dear Colleague letter to all House members, Pelosi wrote that “CARES 2 must go further in assisting small businesses including farmers, extending and strengthening unemployment benefits and giving families additional direct payments. We must also provide the desperately needed resources for our state and local governments, hospitals, community health centers, health systems and health workers, first responders and other providers on the frontlines of this crisis.”

As for what the Administration will push for, the Washington Post reports that “White House officials have in recent days discussed pitching a payroll-tax cut, a capital-gains tax cut, creating 50-year Treasury bonds to lock in low interest rates, and a waiver that would clear businesses of liability from employees who contract the coronavirus on the job.”

Pelosi provided no timeline for action in her Dear Colleague letter, but in previous remarks she indicated the House would be ready to move legislation soon after it returns to session. House and Senate members are not scheduled to return until April 20 at the earliest, but if action is needed before then (for example, if the loan program for small businesses runs out of money), it will increase pressure on the Administration and congressional leaders to quickly forge a bipartisan agreement that pumps more money into the aid programs. Whether such a plan could be approved without objection remains to be seen.

What’s in a Name? Just as there are many names ascribed to the next round of legislation, there are various ways to describe the current crisis. A bit of background: Coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s and usually cause mild illnesses. The current virus is new, i.e., a novel coronavirus. It is also referred to as SARS-CoV-2. Viruses cause diseases, and on Feb. 11, the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – COVID-19. CO comes from corona, VI comes from virus, D means disease, and 19 stands for 2019, when the first cases were seen.

USMCA. For the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement to take effect, each of the three countries must notify the others that it has completed internal procedures for the agreement to enter into force. Canada did so on Thursday, April 2, and Mexico followed suit on April 4. Press reports and our sources indicate it is uncertain when the U.S. notification will be sent, in part due to remaining steps to be taken by the U.S. to certify Mexico’s progress on labor reform and other issues. If the USMCA protocol is followed, trade lawyers believe the earliest the agreement can take effect is July 1.

Political Update

Nominating Conventions. The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee that was scheduled to start July 13 has been re-scheduled for Aug. 17-20. The Republican National Convention is still scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C. Even though the Democratic event has been delayed by a month, party frontrunner Joe Biden said Sunday that it may not be possible to bring thousands of people to one location safely amid the pandemic. “We may have to do a virtual convention. I know I think we should be thinking about that right now.”

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