The postMemorial Day summer session has begun in Washington with the House and Senate facing a similar todo list but with different approaches and philosophies. The main items on the summer agenda include the Phase 4 COVID19 response package, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), appropriations, the federal highway bill (the FAST Act), water infrastructure legislation (WRDA) and flood insurance.
The negotiations over Phase 4 are expected to gear up in June as the Senate prepares its response to the $3 trillion Housepassed HEROES Act. While the two parties have different views on the scope of Phase 4, there is bipartisan agreement that adjustments need to be made to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure businesses can optimally use the program. Last week, the House passed legislation by a 4171 vote to extend the loan forgiveness period to 24 weeks. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Dean Phillips (DMN) and Rep. Chip Roy (RTX), would also modify the 75percent payroll requirement of the program to provide greater flexibility at a new ratio of 60 percent on payroll costs and 40 percent on other costs. The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Small Business Committee reached agreement on a similar but slightly different package of technical modifications to the PPP just prior to the Memorial Day recess and is expected to resume negotiations this week in an attempt to secure Senate passage as a standalone package in June.
The Senate will be in session for the entire month of June, with the next recess scheduled over the July 4 holiday. Leader McConnell has indicated that the Senate will vote on S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, which would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at its authorized $900 million annual level. The Senate continues to process President Trump's nominations to the executive and judicial branches and also plans to take up the NDAA, with the Senate Armed Services Committee recently announcing a revised schedule for marking up the measure in June. The chamber also may take up WRDA this summer, and the Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to begin the process of approving and reporting out appropriations bills in June.
The House will continue their work via proxy voting and remote hearings, and will focus on NDAA, the highway bill, the water resources bill, as well as the appropriations bills. Ongoing COVID19 business in the House has delayed the chamber's initial plans to pass all 12 of its appropriations bills by June, but subcommittees are working to draft and remotely approve appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021 with the goal of House passage before the August recess.
In this Issue
- Appropriations Update
- Financial Services Update
- Health Care COVID19 Response
- Surface Transportation
- National Defense Authorization Act
- Regulation Easing Reporting Requirements for 501(c)(4) Organizations Finalized
- Contact Tracing Efforts Bring Renewed Privacy Focus
- Tax Update
- Telecom Update
- Trade Policy Update
- New Executive Order Calls for Greater Regulatory Flexibility, Compliance Assistance and Enforcement Discretion for Businesses
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) has distributed top-line numbers (i.e., 302(b) allocations) to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees as of April, but these numbers are not yet public. House members had begun the process of collecting appropriations requests from constituents before leaving the Capitol in April and many are now in the process of remotely drafting appropriations bills for FY 2021. Many lawmakers have considered the possibility of exempting certain programs related to the coronavirus response from limits in discretionary spending levels set out in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Labor-HHS subcommittee, has agreed with Chairwoman Lowey on these cap exemptions, saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies and programs are likely to need significant funding increases. On the Senate side, Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has expressed interest on moving forward with funding the government and signaled support for a plan to exempt Veterans Affairs (VA) health care funding from budget caps. Shelby also stated that President Trump understood the need for this exemption and would not oppose it. The Senate has not yet issued top-line numbers to the subcommittees. Specific timelines for markups in June and July have not yet been released for either chamber, but more details are likely forthcoming as the committees shift their focus from COVID-19 relief bills to regular annual appropriations for FY 2021. On Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (DMD) wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter that he expects the House Appropriations Committee will start marking up the 12 bills in subcommittee and full committee "at the end of June and beginning of July." Hoyer released the updated House calendar on Friday showing the August recess scheduled to begin after votes July 31, and run through Labor Day
Financial Services Update
The CARES Act provided unprecedented support to individuals and businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided for $350 billion in forgivable lending to businesses that primarily used the loans to finance their payroll. The demand for this program was so significant that Congress subsequently supplemented it with an additional $310 billion appropriation. In addition, Congress provided Treasury with at least $454 billion in financing to support lending programs through the Federal Reserve. The Main Street Lending Program, designed to fill the gap between the PPP and the Federal Reserve's Corporate Credit Facilities (PMCCF/SMCCF), promises to be among the more significant financial tools in the federal government's toolkit, but it is only just now coming online. As Congress thinks through a next round of COVID-19-related legislation, the successes and shortcomings of PPP and the Federal Reserve facilities will be top of mind for legislators.
Originally published 4 June, 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.