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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate. The Senate reconvened today, with the schedule calling for a vote to confirm a new inspector general for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Later in the week, the Senate could consider legislation to reinstate elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that expired March 15. Republican Senators plan to gather Tuesday for their weekly luncheon, but Democrats will conduct their weekly luncheon meeting via conference call.

A number of hearings will be held, but they will be in large committee rooms, allowing for attendees to be at least six feet apart. Democrats have not yet decided whether they will attend the hearings in person or through remote technology. The physician’s office recommends that during committee meetings Senators wear face coverings, limit the number of staffers attending, and stay in their seats. Staff who do attend are asked to sit in the audience and only approach the dais if needed.

House. The House is not in session this week and is tentatively planning to return next week. However, the expected return could again be moved back depending, in large part, on advice from the physician’s office. Even though the House is not in session this week, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Department of Health and Human Services will hold an in-person hearing Wednesday on the “Covid-19 Response.” Members have been asked to not bring staff, or only bring one aide, and to wear facial coverings. House committees are being encouraged to conduct “remote roundtables” to test various platforms to resume business without having to convene in person.

Covid 4 (aka CARES 2). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working to pull together the next round of legislation that the House will consider when it returns. The legislation is expected to propose a massive amount of spending, including more funds for state and local governments, personal protective equipment, healthcare providers, small businesses, and unemployment benefits; hazard pay for healthcare and emergency workers; another round of payments to individuals; and higher SNAP (food stamp) benefits, among other provisions.

As for the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he is in no rush to consider a Covid 4 bill, but once the Senate does take up the next bill, McConnell says it must provide liability protections for employers. McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a joint statement Friday noting that “Senate and House Republicans are united in our demand that health care workers, small businesses, and other Americans on the front lines of this fight must receive strong protections from frivolous lawsuits…[T]hese protections will be absolutely essential to future discussions surrounding recovery legislation.” Democratic leaders have made clear they will oppose broad liability protection legislation.

For his part, President Trump said on Sunday, “We’re not doing anything until we get a payroll tax cut.” While the President has often mentioned such a tax cut, no details have been put forth as to what would be proposed.

Committee Action of Note

May 5

  • Senate Banking Committee Hearing: Nominations of The Honorable Brian D. Miller, Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Designate, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Mrs. Dana T. Wade, Assistant Secretary Designate, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

May 6

  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Hearing: The State of the Aviation Industry: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Markup: To consider a substitute amendment to an original bill entitled, "America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2020", and a substitute amendment to an original bill entitled, "Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020".
  • Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing: Roundtable-COVID-19: How New Information Should Drive Policy.
  • House Appropriations, Labor-HHS Subcommittee Hearing: COVID-19 Response.

May 7

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Hearing: Shark Tank: New Tests for COVID-19.

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