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What's Ahead in Washington

***No Bulletin will be sent Friday, July 10. Have a safe and happy July 4th! ***

More Time for Loans and Possible PPP Expansion
Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) is starting a bipartisan effort to work on the next phase of aid to small firms hammered by the pandemic. Rubio is reconvening a task force that helped establish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered loans to small businesses, to work on an agreement on getting additional relief, his office said.

Rubio is considering legislation that would create new programs with expanded uses of PPP funding, including allowing chambers of commerce to apply, setting aside $25 billion for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and directing aid to businesses that prove they were affected by the coronavirus, according to his office. 

On Wednesday, the Senate, by unanimous consent, passed legislation that extends the deadline for companies to apply for the current PPP loan program to August 8. The Small Business Administration, which ran PPP with the Treasury Department, was due to stop accepting new applications at midnight, Tuesday June 30.
From the Washington Post


Thune Says Next Stimulus Package Realistic by August Break
“There’s a lot of work that’s been done, a lot of oversight that’s been done, a lot of ideas that are being batted around,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) says, referring to congressional talks over another stimulus package to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s realistic but challenging for sure,” on whether the chamber can put a plan together before the August recess. “In the end, if we need to move and we need to act, we will,” he added.
 
Consensus among Republicans is growing that aid that “needs to be strong” on health care, with testing and vaccine research a priority, and it needs to address unemployment benefits that expire at the end of July and make sure that the virus relief loan program is targeted at hard-hit industries. Republicans are split on President Trump’s desire for another round of direct payments to individuals, Thune says.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters this week that the government will consider more stimulus checks in the next coronavirus aid package.  “We’re going to seriously consider whether we need to put more payments, and direct payments.”
 
What the next stimulus bill will look like is very much an open question. House Democrats packed a comprehensive list of demands into a $3.5 trillion measure passed in May. Senate Republicans have dismissed that plan and are discussing a package of as much as $1 trillion in total spending. Negotiations won’t begin in earnest until the Senate returns from recess on July 20.
From Forbes


House Panel’s PFAS Provisions Set Up Showdown With Senate week of July 20
The Senate on Thursday put off further action for weeks on its mammoth defense authorization bill that has become a battleground for efforts to address exposure to PFAS. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that, according to the EPA, are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don't break down and they can accumulate over time.
 
The House version now has stronger PFAS provisions after the Armed Services panel wrapped up markup. But the Senate’s $740.5 billion fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 4049) will have to be reconciled with the House defense bill when the chamber returns after the two week July 4 recess.
 
The Senate did agree to take up six amendments when the chamber returns to the bill the week of July 20, including one by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to increase funding for a human health study on PFAS from $10 million to $15 million in fiscal 2021. From Politico
 

Massive Infrastructure Bill “not going anywhere,” says McConnell
The House passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill on Wednesday, setting up a fight with Senate Republicans over environmental reviews, mass transit funding, and how to pay for roads and bridges.

The measure includes Democrats’ almost $500 billion highway, transit, and rail bill (H.R. 2), known together as surface transportation, plus provisions on schools, housing, and broadband. The chamber’s 233-188 vote came down largely along party lines. The bill is unlikely to become law in its current form. Republicans in the GOP-led Senate said they don’t support it, and the White House threatened a veto on Monday, saying it shortchanges rural areas.

“This nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor before the House voted. “It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.” From The HIll


Proxy Voting through Mid-August in the House
Proxy voting has been extended through mid-August in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi alerted members in a Dear Colleague letter on June 29. House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving, in consultation with the Office of the Attending Physician, notified Pelosi that the public health emergency due to the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing.The proxy voting period was implemented May 20, for 45 days. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still vote on the House floor and participate in committee meetings. From Roll Call

The Senate is in recess until July 20
The House has no floor action scheduled next week.


House appropriators do plan to hold all 12 subcommittee markups from July 6 to 8. The full committee plans to hold markups later next week and into the following week. Subcommittee markups will happen in the following order:
July 6: State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA
July 7: Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy and Water, Labor-HHS-Education
July 8: Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-HUD, Financial Services, Defense
 
Full committee markups include:
July 9: 302(b) allocations, State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA
July 10: Energy and Water, Interior-Environment
Full committee markups will continue July 13, and finish July 16
 

 

Not to be missed


Committee Focuses on College Sports Compensation
A federal law is needed to address competitive fairness and protections for students, Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, which includes 14 Division One colleges, told lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday.

“Athletes being recruited by multiple universities in multiple states need to understand one clear standard,” he said.

College sports stars may be a step closer to getting compensation for their names and likenesses. Just don’t look for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to dictate those standards, senators on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee signaled.

“I oppose the Congress fully deferring to the NCAA on just coming up with the rules on name, image, and likeness,” said Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the panel’s ranking member, at a committee hearing Wednesday.

The NCAA’s governing board in April endorsed changing the rules to allow third parties—but not colleges themselves—to compensate student athletes for their names, images, and likenesses. The association’s three divisions have been asked to craft rules to take effect in the 2021-22 academic year.

A patchwork of state rules would be problematic, yet the NCAA itself hadn’t adequately addressed questions involving name, image, and likeness, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said.

“This issue has gotten away from you,” she told representatives of the the NCAA and college athletic programs at the hearing. Even with NCAA rules in the works, the association and member colleges want national standards that preempt new state laws.
From Sports Illustrated


Middle Seats?  What to Expect if You Fly
US airlines had stopped selling the not-coveted middle seat for months, both to ensure social distancing and because of a lack of passengers. But with a modest rebound in flying, that is changing.

American Airlines disclosed last week that "customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1." This change comes even as the number of Covid-19 cases rises in many states.  United has been willing to sell every possible seat throughout the pandemic. Both said they would notify passengers when a flight has more than 70% of its seats booked, and allow them to change to a less crowded flight. But that won't necessarily allow passengers with limited flexibility to avoid crowded flights.

The empty seats had been a result of low demand for air travel combined with airline policy meant to encourage people to feel safe about flying. But on Sunday there were 634,000 people passing through TSA checkpoints at US airports, which was 24% of the traffic on the same day last summer. That's the highest total since late March and is seven times as many people as were screened the low point in mid-April.
From CNN
 

Fauci Warns of 100,000 Daily Cases
The nation’s top public health officials warned Americans on Tuesday that the U.S. is on track to see 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day if behaviors don’t change

 “The numbers speak for themselves. I’m very concerned,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee today. “Clearly we are not in total control right now.”

Fauci said he wouldn’t be surprised to see new cases rise by 100,000 per day if recent surges don’t turn around, up from the current level of about 40,000 per day. As for the number of deaths, “it is going to be very disturbing, I guarantee you that,” he said.

Fauci and other committee witnesses cited indoor gatherings as a major cause of recent virus spikes, singling out bars in particular.

The U.S. has recorded more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases in total, with more than 126,000 deaths due to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
From BBC News


Vaccine by Year’s End? Who’s First in Line?
Several drugmakers are racing to complete clinical trials of vaccine candidates, with some expecting to wrap up in months what previously tended to take years. The Food and Drug Administration published standards this week for approving a vaccine, saying any candidate has to be at least 50% more effective than a placebo.

Fauci said that he is “aspirationally hopeful” that a vaccine for Covid-19 will be ready in early 2021, though he cautioned that there’s no guarantee that a safe vaccine will be developed. 
The President remained more optimistic, saying three vaccine candidates are “looking really, really good” in trials. President Trump says three more vaccines will begin trials “shortly,” while the military is standing by, ready to distribute vaccines.  
 
And who gets it first? Food and agriculture workers should be among the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine once it’s developed, industry groups urged as lawmakers consider how to manage what’s likely to be a rush for access.

“It ought to be a scientific and health decision on what the priorities are,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said this week. “But it would sure help agriculture if it brings certainty to the food supply chain.” 
From Bloomberg (BGOV) reports


Rubio Seeks Federal Help for Schools on COVID Testing
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he wants the federal government to assist states with “pool testing” for colleges, schools, emergency responders, and health-care workers. “This will allow them to conduct exponentially larger number of tests regularly” and identify and stop outbreaks, Rubio said in a tweet. 

In a separate tweet, Rubio says focus shouldn’t be on daily number of positive cases or hospitalizations since “many positives won’t get sick & many hospital admissions unrelated to & not being treated for COVID.” Instead, HHS should require hospitals to report COVID admissions and how many of those patients need the ICU, Rubio says.
From Bloomberg and Sen. Rubio’s office


No More Time on Taxes Without Filing for Extension
“After consulting with various external stakeholders, we have decided to have taxpayers request an extension if more time is needed,” Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin says in statement.

NOTE: In March, IRS extended the April 15 deadline to July 15 due to Covid-19; Mnuchin had said he was considering a second deadline extension.

 “The IRS understands that those affected by the coronavirus may not be able to pay their balances in full by July 15, but we have many payment options to help taxpayers,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig says in statement. From CNBC


Cleaning up Lead Contaminated Water Lines
House lawmakers on Wednesday approved a significant amendment to the infrastructure package that would devote billions of dollars over the next five years to help reduce lead in water, particularly in environmental justice communities.

The Democratic standalone measure would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act by authorizing $4.5 billion per fiscal year through fiscal 2025 for comprehensive lead service line replacement projects, with priority given to communities of color who are especially exposed to environmental pollution.

The language would shift the cost burden from low-income communities to the federal government to help clean up contaminated water lines.
From Bloomberg (BGOV) reports


Refinery Exemptions Still On Hold
The EPA is still waiting on Energy Dept assessments of dozens of refinery requests seeking retroactive exemptions from a federal requirement to use biofuel, Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday.

The EPA submitted applications to the Energy Dept for review as it assesses whether refineries face “economic harm” and qualify for relief under the Renewable Fuel Standard law.

“There’s a number of issues around that,” Wheeler told reporters on a conference call, noting petitions go back to years for which biofuel compliance credits have expired. “There’s questions about whether they can show economic harm and what the remedy would be, but we’re waiting to see what the Dept of Energy says about small refinery exemptions,” 

Note: Refineries have filed at least 52 applications with EPA seeking retroactive biofuel-blending waivers going back to 2011.
From Brownfield Ag News
 

KBS Best

FirstSpear TV Showcases Emerging Advanced Equipment for Special Forces
Fenton, Missouri based FirstSpear has launched a YouTube channel, FirstSpearTV—a multi-platform entertainment channel built for those who want more eye-grabbing, edge-of-your-seat action. Viewers get a free look at fielded and emerging advanced equipment in use by the world’s best Special Operations Forces. Devoid of clutter and online chest-beating, this platform is solely for entertainment and appreciation of those who pursue excitement.
 
The “actors” have unique and diverse backgrounds in Special Operations, Law Enforcement, and Security. These Operators will go through unique mission sets to expose you to the outer workings of their world. FirstSpear TV will not provide details of the TTP’s or explanations of how a mission was conducted. What you will see is an unvarnished view of the thrill and rush the job gave them. FirstSpear TV is about shock, awe, and recognition of those who provide the freedom that the rest of us enjoy and celebrate on July 4th.
http://www.first-spear.tv/about/

KBS Director Michael Dubois has worked with FirstSpear since 2016.
 

 
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