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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate. The Senate will continue consideration of nominations and may also try to approve by unanimous consent legislation passed last week in the House to provide more flexibility for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Next week, the Senate could take up the Great American Outdoors Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the deferred maintenance backlog at national parks.

House. The House is not expected to be in session until June 30 as it waits for the Senate to act on the next coronavirus legislation. In the meantime, committees will hold hearings and mark up legislation, including the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, an infrastructure package, the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, FY 2021 appropriations bills, and legislation to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act. Before a committee can meet remotely to mark up legislation, it must practice with two remote hearings.

According to a letter House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sent to his colleagues on Friday, “if the House is able to complete its work on these items by the end of July, no changes will be made to the August District Work Period, barring, of course, any additional measures that need to be taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

FY 2021 Appropriations. In his letter, Hoyer noted that the Appropriations Committee will begin subcommittee and full committee markups at the end of June and in early July. No markup schedule has been released, but the plan is to complete full committee action by the end of July in order to allow for House consideration before the August recess. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is hoping his subcommittees can begin action the week of June 15.

PPP Flexibility. The House on May 28 voted 417-1, with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) dissenting, to approve legislation that would make it easier for businesses to use loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Among other things, the measure would give business with fewer than 500 employees 24 weeks, instead of eight, to use PPP loans and qualify for loan forgiveness.

It would also modify the regulation requiring businesses to use 75% of the loan on payroll costs in order to qualify for full loan forgiveness. The original bill eliminated this requirement, but, according to bill sponsor Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), labor unions were concerned that eliminating the 75-25 rule would “reduce the amount of money that would go to employees, and we also wanted to craft something that wouldn’t just pass this chamber, but also the Senate and find, perhaps, a signature in the White House.” The last-minute change to the bill provides that at least 60% of the loan must be used for payroll.

As for Senate consideration, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may try to move the House-passed bill by unanimous consent. According to Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), there are “inadvertent technical errors in the House’s PPP bill [that] could create an unintended disincentive to rehiring and create new and serious burdens for PPP borrowers in terms of forgiveness.” Rubio has asked the Treasury Department whether it could address the problems during implementation of the bill. If not and the Senate clears the House bill, both chambers may need to approve a technical corrections measure, which could possibly be done by unanimous consent.

Committee Action of Note

Tuesday, June 2

  • Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing to examine the implementation of Title IV of the CARES Act.
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing: "On the Front Lines: How Governors are Battling the COVID-19 Pandemic."
  • Senate Finance Committee hearing to examine the Food and Drug Administration's foreign drug manufacturing inspection process, focusing on COVID-19 and beyond.

Wednesday, June 3

  • Senate Small Business Committee hearing to examine COVID-19's impact on small business, focusing on perspectives from Main Street.
  • House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions hearing: “Promoting Inclusive Lending During the Pandemic: Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions.”
  • Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine the nomination of Russell Vought to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing to examine the state of transportation and critical infrastructure, focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2021, advance appropriations requests for fiscal year 2022, and fiscal year 2020 enacted CARES Act supplemental appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thursday, June 4

  • House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing: Future Force Structure Requirements for the United States Navy.
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on going back to college safely.
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to examine infrastructure, focusing on the road to recovery.
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS hearing: COVID-19 Response.
  • Senate Banking Committee hearing to examine the crisis in Hong Kong, focusing on a review of United States policy tools.

Political Update

Elections. Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C. will all hold primary elections on Tuesday.

Veepstakes. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he hopes to announce his pick for Vice President around August 1. His list was shortened by one on Thursday, when Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto withdrew her name from consideration, citing her focus on issues affecting her constituents, who have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Convention Planning. President Trump is threatening to move the Aug. 24-27 Republican Convention out of Charlotte. On Friday, he spoke on the phone with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and stressed his desire to hold a full convention with no masks or social distancing. Also on Friday, North Carolina’s HHS Secretary sent a letter to RNC officials asking for more information on how they would carry out a convention, adding that the state fully supports holding the convention “if it can be done safely.”

Democrats are still considering options for their August 17-20 convention slated to be held in Milwaukee. To lead his campaign’s convention planning, Biden has hired two new advisers, including Senator Cory Booker’s former campaign manager. Biden and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) have both floated the idea of a virtual convention, possibly with a smaller in-person component.

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