What to Know in Washington: What Next Relief Bill Will Look Like

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With a resurgence of the coronavirus threatening a nascent rebound of the U.S. economy, the White House and Congress are under increased pressure to come to terms on another round of stimulus.

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.

Economic data over the next month, including today’s jobs report, will shape much of the debate in Washington.

“Any phase four economic package must prioritize pro-growth economic measures that incentivize employers and our great American work force for re-employment and a return to the labor market,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in an email.

Most of the discussion in Congress and the Trump administration about the next round of relief has focused on several key items: Additional aid for businesses and the unemployed; another round of checks to individuals; liability limits for employers; health care and infrastructure funding; and aid to state and local governments.

Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan and Josh Wingrove have the state of play on the leading stimulus proposals.

Job Numbers: While the June jobs data and weekly unemployment claims are expected to show further improvement in a hammered market, the actual trend may not be immediately clear when the Labor Department issues the reports at 8:30 a.m. What’s more, the numbers could again be the subject of confusion and debate in the hours and days that follow. Read more from Katia Dmitrieva and Reade Pickert on what to expect from the labor report.

Happening on the Hill

House Clears Extension of Loans Program: The House gave a final last-minute congressional approval yesterday to extending the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses to Aug. 8. The vote came hours after the deadline for applications lapsed with over $130 billion still available. The Senate passed a bill on Tuesday to extend the program before the Small Business Administration was to stop accepting new loan applications at 11:59 p.m. Read more from Billy House and Erik Wasson.

House Passes $1.5 Trillion Highway Bill: The House passed its sweeping $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill yesterday, setting up a fight with Republican senators over environmental reviews, mass transit funds, and how to pay for roads and bridges. The measure includes Democrats’ almost $500 billion highway, transit, and rail bill, known together as surface transportation, in addition to provisions on schools, housing, and broadband. The chamber’s 233-188 vote came down largely along party lines. Read more from Courtney Rozen.

House Passes China Sanctions Bill: The House passed by unanimous consent a measure imposing sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The bill, similar but not identical to a bill passed by the Senate last week, would have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Donald Trump for a signature. The measure is a response to the Chinese government enacting a strict new national security law for Hong Kong. Read more from Daniel Flatley.

  • Separately yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it is “long overdue for us to execute the sanctions against Russia” and to “add more to them” in light of reports that Russia put out bounties on Americans in Afghanistan. Pelosi on MSNBC called to institute sanctions against Russia “right away.” Read more from Billy House.

Pentagon to Erase Remnants of Confederacy Under Defense Bill: U.S. military bases bearing the names of Confederate generals, in an echo of societal upheaval over race and racism, would be renamed under the $741 billion defense authorization measure the House Armed Services Committee approved last night. The annual defense authorization measure reflects a unique time in U.S. society shaken by the coronavirus pandemic and unrest over racial inequalities. It sets up a clash with Trump, who opposes renaming military bases.

“We have to come to terms with our history and understand why this was done and what that represents to a lot of people and correct that,” Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said about Confederate base names. “This is clear cut, this should not be. This does not have a place and the downside far outweighs any upside of maintaining them.”

The panel adopted the defense measure by a vote of 56-0. The bill authorizes paying U.S. troops in harm’s way, elevating it to must-pass legislation. The measure has become law 59 years in a row. Roxana Tiron and Travis J. Tritten have all the details on the bill.

Majority in Senate Backs Juneteenth Holiday: More than half of the Senate has signed onto a bill that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday. About a third of the House has endorsed a similar bill in that chamber. The Senate plan would add the holiday to the calendar, though at least two Republicans want to remove Columbus Day at the same time so as not to increase the total number of federal holidays. Democrats also want to make Election Day a federal holiday, though that has more opposition among Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Read more.

Senators Seek Details About Trade Officials Who Sought Clients: Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) asked the top U.S. trade official for details about officials who allegedly sought private-sector consulting work while still government employees and said the episode raises questions about policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. “Americans deserve to know that their trade policy is made in the public interest and not for private gain,” they said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The lawmakers asked Lighthizer whether the two officials still work at the trade office, and for details about approvals from the ethics office at the trade representative’s office. Read more from Todd Shields.

Google, Facebook Would Face FTC Over Policies in Bill: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wants to empower the Federal Trade Commission to take action against Google and Facebook, among other technology platforms, if they fail to remove content that violates their terms of service and community standards. Schakowsky, who leads a subcommittee on consumer protection, told Bloomberg in an interview that she plans to introduce a bill in the coming days that would clarify that if technology companies fail to fulfill the “assurances” made to users in terms and conditions, community standards, advertising rules and content moderation policies, they could face enforcement from the FTC. The initiative falls into a flurry of measures that aim to limit a much-cherished liability shield for user content under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Read more from Ben Brody and Rebecca Kern.

Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet Chiefs to Testify: The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple have agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, which is probing competition issues in the technology industry, according to a spokeswoman for the panel. Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Jeff Bezos, and Tim Cook are poised to face a torrent of questions from lawmakers in a televised hearing about their companies’ business practices as the panel seeks to build its case for tougher antitrust enforcement. Read more from Naomi Nix and Ben Brody.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Trump Says Masks Are ‘Good’ But Questions Requiring Them: Trump said he’d wear a mask if he were “in a tight situation with people” but that he’s not convinced they should be required even as coronavirus cases are spiking in parts of the U.S. “I don’t know if you need mandatory,” Trump said yesterday in a Fox Business Network interview. “I’m all for masks, I think masks are good.”

Trump has mocked his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, for wearing a mask and hasn’t publicly worn one, though he is facing calls to do so. His comments come a day after Surgeon General Jerome Adams said: “Please, please, please wear a face covering when you go out in public.”

Trump targeted Biden again yesterday in an interview with conservative commentator Eric Bolling, saying the presumptive Democratic nominee wore his mask even when the audience he was addressing had been seated far away. “He is speaking with a mask on and you can’t even understand what he is saying,” Trump said, adding that “when there is nobody around, I don’t see a reason to wear it.” Read more from Mario Parker and Justin Sink.

Young Americans Are Spreading Covid-19 Quickly: Covid-19 is increasingly a disease of the young, with the message to stay home for the sake of older loved ones wearing off as the pandemic wears on. The dropping age of the infected is becoming one of the most pressing problems for local officials, who continued yesterday to set curfews and close places where young people gather. U.S. health experts say that they are more likely to be active and asymptomatic, providing a vast redoubt for the coronavirus that has killed almost 130,000 Americans.

In Arizona, half of all positive cases are people from the ages of 20 to 44, according to state data. The median age in Florida is 37, down from 65 in March. In Texas’s Hays County, people in their 20s make up 50% of the victims. Read more from Rachel Adams-Heard.

Tracing Needs Minorities’ Buy-In: Contact-tracing initiatives will help contain the spread of Covid-19 only if they’re fully integrated into the U.S. communities hit hardest by the coronavirus, health equity advocates argue. Contact tracing, which is designed to identify and inform people who have been exposed to the virus, is seen as key to slowing the pandemic and getting people back to work. But efforts to track people’s whereabouts will require trust that communities might be better served building from the ground up.

That could be difficult to earn from Black, Hispanic, and other people who are at higher risk of getting Covid-19 yet are often wary of engaging with a health-care system that has underserved them in the past, advocates said. Read more from Christopher Brown.

Fauci Says World Needs More Than One Vaccine: The world needs more than one vaccine to tackle the new coronavirus, even as pharma companies race to be the first with a pandemic shot, said U.S. infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci. “I’d love to see more than one vaccine get to the goal line, as it were,” Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a BBC radio interview today. “The world needs more than one vaccine.”

Drugmakers such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and dozens of other biopharmaceutical outfits and academic groups are vying to come up with a safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19. With almost 10.5 million confirmed cases around the globe and over half a million deaths, drugmakers are under increasing pressure to deliver. Read more from Thomas Penny.

California Closes Indoor Dining: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered the shutdown of indoor businesses—including restaurants, museums and movie theaters—in 19 counties, halting reopenings started just weeks ago as the state grapples with a surge of coronavirus infections. The areas affected include Los Angeles County, the worst hit in the state, Newsom said. Read more from Kara Wetzel and David R. Baker.

Elections & Politics

Trump Revives Culture Wars to Deflect Pressure: Trump, lagging in polls and facing new questions over possible Russian bounties to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is resorting again to stoking racial tensions, a tactic he’s used in the past to change the subject and appeal to some of his most loyal supporters.

Through the week leading up to Independence Day, the president has sent a series of tweets vilifying the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters against police brutality, opposed renaming military bases that honor Confederate generals and threatened to end a Fair Housing program that strengthens anti-discrimination policies to ease more integration of neighborhoods, saying it has had a “devastating impact” on suburbs.

The president has long used Twitter to pick at some of the country’s raw racial wounds, even before he was president, when he championed the false “birther” theory that President Barack Obama was not a U.S citizen. It’s also a strategy to distract the public from multiple crises, even if it creates a fresh fight. Mario Parker has more.

  • Meanwhile, Trump is dismissing reports that Russia paid bounties to Afghan militants for killing American troops as a “hoax,” even as his administration has briefed U.S. allies on the threat and weighed possible reprisals. Trump continues to cast doubt on warnings by U.S. spy agencies about the bounties because some of his own intelligence officials have low confidence in the accuracy of the information, according to two people familiar with the matter. Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs have the latest.

Trump’s Court Reshaping Fuels Liberal Campaigns: Progressive activists looking to make judicial nominations a campaign issue say Trump’s efforts to reshape the federal courts have given the topic new resonance among Democratic voters. The prospect of capturing the courts has more often mobilized conservative voters, but liberal activists who announced plans yesterday to spend $2 million on advertising say this time could be different after Democrats have watched Trump fill 200 seats on the federal judiciary, including two Supreme Court justices. Read more from Madison Alder.

Biden Edges Out Trump in June Fundraising: Biden’s presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and associated state parties raised $141 million in June and brought in twice that amount for the full second quarter, topping the hauls from Trump and Republicans in the those same periods. The take is the biggest yet for either candidate during the 2020 campaign and Biden’s team celebrated the news that it had edged out Trump. “Not only is this a jaw-dropping sum of money, but we once again outraised Donald Trump!! And this is before we have our final numbers!” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in an email to supporters. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $131 million in June. Their total for the full second quarter was $266 million. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Biden Says Lawyers Will Guard Against Election ‘Chicanery’: Biden said that his campaign had convened a group of 600 lawyers and thousands of volunteers to prepare for any “chicanery” that might disrupt or interfere with the November election. “We’re continuing to fight any effort to exploit the pandemic for political purposes, support the countless state and local officials working like hell to make voting safe and accessible for citizens, especially the most vulnerable, or call out local rules that don’t adequately ensure access to vote,” Biden said during a fundraiser last night. Read more from Tyler Pager.

What Else to Know Today

Trump’s Rule Restricting Asylum Seekers Blocked: A federal judge blocked a Trump administration rule that disqualified immigrants at the southern border from receiving asylum unless they had already sought it elsewhere. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled that the government had “unlawfully promulgated” the asylum rule, bypassing the usual public comment process required under the Administrative Procedure Act. Read more from David Yaffe-Bellany.

Trump Says He’s Very Happy With Powell: Trump, a previously fierce critic of the Federal Reserve who has shifted to praise as it battled the coronavirus, has voiced fresh satisfaction with Chairman Jerome Powell. “I’m very happy with his performance,” Trump tod Fox Business Network yesterday. “I would say I was not happy with him at the beginning” but he’s becoming more happy, he said. Read more from Steve Matthews and Jennifer Jacobs.

Trump to Meet With Mexico’s Lopez Obrador: Trump plans to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador next Wednesday at the White House to celebrate the revised North American free trade agreement. Trump said in a statement yesterday he would discuss “trade, health, and other issues central to our regional prosperity and security” with his Mexican counterpart during the July 8 meeting, which he said will mark the “historic achievement” of the new trade deal that took effect yesterday. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Ex-Trump Economy Aide Joins Mayer Brown: Former White House economic adviser Andrew Olmem rejoined Mayer Brown, where clients are likely to tap his expertise to navigate coronavirus regulatory uncertainty, including rules around new Federal Reserve lending facilities. Financial services institutions “are trying to figure out how to best navigate through these unprecedented times,” Olmem said in an interview. Read more from Sam Skolnik.

Gun Demand Increases: U.S. consumers are rushing to buy guns as the Covid-19 pandemic and protests over police brutality combine with U.S. presidential politics to fuel unprecedented demand. Firearm background checks compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a proxy for gun purchases, jumped to a record in June as street demonstrations spread around the U.S. Read more from Catherine Leffert.

Mary Trump’s Publisher Wins Order Unblocking Memoir: Simon & Schuster got a green light — for now — to publish a tell-all memoir by Trump’s niece after a New York appeals court lifted a temporary ruling that would have blocked the book’s release, Erik Larson reports.

Publishing Note: Bloomberg Government’s What to Know in Washington will not publish Friday, July 3rd in observance of the Fourth of July federal holiday. We’ll resume publication Monday, July 6.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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