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Legislative / Policy Update

House Schedule. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised Members this afternoon that “absent an emergency, the House is not expected to meet prior to Monday, May 4.” This is just a target date and could be pushed back, depending on advice from the medical community. If there is a need to take action on critical legislation related to the coronavirus response or other legislative priorities, Members will be given sufficient notice to return to Washington, D.C.

Interim Package. An impasse continues between Republicans and Democrats on additional assistance for small businesses and possibly hospitals and state and local governments. Last Thursday, April 9, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked unanimous consent to approve $250 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans to small businesses. (This is in addition to the $350 billion in the CARES Act.) Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) objected. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) then asked unanimous consent that the Majority Leader’s request be modified to make various programmatic changes to McConnell’s request of $250 billion for small businesses; add $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers, and health systems; provide $150 billion for state and local governments; and increase the maximum SNAP (food stamp) benefit by 15%. Senator McConnell objected.

Since then, there appears to have been no progress toward finding a compromise. The next pro forma sessions of the House are scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, and Friday, April 17. The Senate met in pro forma session this morning with no business conducted and will meet again on Thursday, April 16.

Paper Hearings. With in-person hearings on Capitol Hill still not possible, some committees have held “paper hearings.” For example, on April 9, the Senate Commerce Committee held such a hearing on “Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus.”

At the start of the paper hearing, the committee posted the chairman’s and ranking member’s opening statements and testimony of the seven witnesses. Committee members had until close of business that day to submit questions to the witnesses, and those questions are now posted on the committee’s website. Witnesses were provided a 96-business-hour turnaround time to answer member questions, and those responses will be posted on the website. The committee will provide an official transcript for the record, and all paper hearing documents will be available online on the committee’s hearing page.

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