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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate. Before adjourning for this week’s Memorial Day recess, the Senate on May 20 gave unanimous consent to legislation that would bar companies using foreign accounting firms from being listed on U.S. stock markets unless they meet certain transparency requirements. Under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, a company would be delisted if it doesn’t allow the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to review its audits for three consecutive years. The bill would also require the companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a governmental entity.

The bill is targeted at China, which has refused to let the PCAOB examine audits of companies based in China and Hong Kong. A companion bill has been introduced in the House, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House will review the legislation.

House. The House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to take up legislation the Senate approved May 14 to extend and make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). There is a possibility that the House could vote on a bipartisan amendment that would prohibit federal law enforcement officials from accessing a person’s Internet search and browsing history without a warrant. If the amendment passes, the bill would go back to the Senate, which failed to approve a similar amendment on a vote of 59-37, one vote shy of the 60 needed for approval.

The House is also scheduled to take up a number of bills under suspension of the rules, which requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of those present and voting. (A member casting a vote by proxy would be considered “present.”) Among the bills under suspension are two dealing with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

PPP Changes. Under the provisions of the CARES Act enacted March 27, the Paycheck Protection Program provides loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The loans can be forgiven if a company uses the funds within eight weeks to cover payroll and other costs such as rent, mortgage, and utility bills incurred between Feb. 15 and June 30. Regulations implementing the PPP provide that at least 75% of the loan must be spent on payroll costs if the loan is to be forgiven (the so-called 75-25 rule).

Both the House and Senate support efforts to make changes to the PPP, but they differ slightly in the details. The bill that the House will vote on this week by Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) would extend the eight-week covered period to 24 weeks; legislation unveiled last week by Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would extend the period to 16 weeks. The House bill would eliminate the 75-25 rule; the Senate proposal does not address the requirement. Both the House and Senate proposals would extend the PPP program from June 30 to Dec. 31.

While Phillips’ PPP flexibility bill is expected to garner the two-thirds support needed for passage under suspension, a second Phillips proposal may fall short of passage. The TRUTH Act would require the Small Business Administration to make certain information available regarding PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and emergency grants. This would include (1) the identity of each recipient of assistance and an explanation of the decision-making process underlying such disbursal; (2) the number of employees of each recipient and the date on which such assistance was disbursed; (3) an identification of each lender or intermediary through which assistance was disbursed; and (4) the amount of assistance disbursed to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, women, and veterans.

Committee Action of Note

Wednesday, May 27

  • House Ways and Means Committee Hearing: “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color” (Virtual).

Thursday, May 28

  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Hearing: “Department of Veterans Affairs - Response to COVID-19” (1324 Longworth).
  • House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Hearing: “Examining the Federal Government’s Actions to Protect Workers from COVID-19” (2175 Rayburn).

Friday, May 29

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Hearing: “The Status of the U.S. Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (Virtual).

Political Update

FEC Filings. Former Vice President Joe Biden raised almost as much as President Trump in April, according to monthly FEC filings released last week. Biden and the Democratic National Committee are now raising money together and reported raising $60.5 million, just shy of the $61.7 million reported by Trump and the Republican National Committee. Limited to virtual fundraising, the Biden campaign got a big boost from Hillary Clinton’s May 19 event on Zoom that raised $2 million. Trump still has a significant advantage though with over $255 million cash on hand compared to the Democrats’ $97.5 million in the bank. The NRSC and NRCC also outraised the DSCC and DCCC according to filings.

Oregon Primaries. In last Tuesday’s primaries, Cliff Bentz won the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District and is considered the favorite to replace retiring Republican Rep. Greg Walden. Bentz served in the Oregon House for 12 years, before accepting an appointment to the state Senate in 2018. He stepped down earlier this year to run for Congress.

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