Becker & Poliakoff

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of September 29, 2020

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of September 29, 2020

The House

The House formally returned to session today for the final legislative week before the November elections. There are a number of important hearings scheduled for this week:

  1. The Natural Resources Committee will hold both a markup and legislative hearing this week;
  2. The Oversight Committee is holding two days of hearings on prescription drug pricing following nearly two years of investigations with testimony from executives of six major pharmaceutical companies;
  3. The Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to examine the VA’s Electronic Health Records Modernization program on Wednesday;
  4. The Financial Technology Task Force of the Financial Services Committee is holding a hearing on financial technology licensing on Thursday and;
  5. The Small Business Committee will hold a Paycheck Protection Program oversight hearing on Thursday.

Despite the presence of what would usually be notable or newsworthy committee hearings, most attention will be paid to the ongoing negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump Administration on a final COVID-19 relief bill before the election. Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for nearly an hour Tuesday morning and while no major progress has been reported (the last GOP offer was for approximately $1 trillion less), the two agreed to speak again Wednesday morning. In the meantime, House Democrats are preparing for a vote on their latest offer: an updated version of the Heroes Act that the House passed in May.

This version of the Heroes Act would provide $436 billion for state and local governments (down from $915 billion in May), reinstitute the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance benefit, provide another round of $1,200 economic impact payments to the individuals, and deliver $75 billion for coronavirus testing, tracing, and isolation measures. In addition to updated provisions from the previous Heroes Act, this version would include new aid for restaurants, airlines, and small businesses not covered by previous legislation. The House is expected to vote on this bill either Wednesday or Thursday before departing until after the election.

The Senate

While the House has thus far led on the relief bill negotiations, the Senate also has a busy week ahead. This afternoon, the Senate is expected to vote and pass the House-passed Continuing Resolution that will prevent a government shutdown on October 1 and keep the federal government funded and operating through December 11. The Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday from former FBI Director James Comey on the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian election interference. On Thursday, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will vote on whether to subpoena the Chief Executive Officers of Twitter, Google, and Facebook to compel testimony.

Though their House counterparts will likely spend the weeks leading up to Election Day in their home districts, Senators will not be afforded that opportunity. With President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the opening on the Supreme Court on Saturday, Senate Republicans are preparing to advance the nomination quickly. Over the next 10 days or so, Barrett will meet with Senators to kick off the informal start to the confirmation process. She will start today by meeting with Senate leadership and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, where her formal confirmation process will begin with opening statements on Monday, October 12. According to a preliminary schedule, the Judiciary Committee expects to report the nominee out of committee on Thursday, October 22. Such a timeline would likely put a final vote on the nominate historically close to Election Day on Tuesday, November 3.

The Administration

Tonight is the first presidential debate of the year. President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off at 9 p.m. EST this evening from Ohio. Tomorrow, the President is expected to attend both a fundraiser and a campaign rally in Minnesota. On Thursday, the President will travel to Bedminster, New Jersey for a campaign event in the afternoon before speaking at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in the Bronx, New York that evening. On Friday, President Trump is expected to speak at a campaign rally in Sanford, FL.