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August 7, 2020

What to expect in Washington (August 7)

More of the same regarding talks over a next coronavirus bill: Administration negotiators and Democratic congressional leaders are still in disagreement over how to proceed and there is no resolution in sight. Talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) started and ended late Thursday evening, and they will speak by phone today (Friday) to see if it makes sense to meet. Exiting the meeting, Senator Schumer said he was disappointed and Secretary Mnuchin said while they are close to compromise on some topics, they remain far apart on several big items including funding for state and local governments and unemployment benefits. The AP described the talks as on the "brink of collapse."

The Washington Post reported, "Pelosi called it a 'consequential meeting' in which the differences between the two parties were on display. 'They didn't take the virus seriously in the beginning, they're not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time,' she said. 'And that's why it's hard to come to terms.'"

The President said yesterday he may move forward with executive orders on issues like unemployment benefits, preventing evictions and suspending payroll tax collections, perhaps today or early Saturday. "They're being drawn now," President Trump said of the orders, as reported by Bloomberg. "We'll see what happens."

The Wall Street Journal cited Speaker Pelosi as expressing doubt over the President's authority to act by executive order on the issues in question. "The one thing the president can do is to extend the moratorium and that would be a good thing, if there is money to go with it," she said on providing assistance to landlords to cover missed rent. The Administration is reportedly considering using money unspent from the CARES Act to pay for unemployment benefits.

As a practical matter, the negotiations over the next coronavirus bill continue at the leadership level, meaning many members of both chambers have gone home and are to receive 24 hours' notice prior to a vote related to coronavirus legislation. The Senate is in session next week and convenes at 3:00 pm on Monday.


Several new tax bills were introduced in the Senate yesterday, including:

  • Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) bill to "rescue domestic medical product manufacturing activity by providing incentives in economically distressed areas" (S. 4467)
  • Senator Dick Durbin's (D-IL) carbon fee bill (S. 4484)
  • Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) bill "to impose an emergency tax on the increase in wealth of billionaires during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to pay for all of the out of pocket healthcare expenses of the uninsured and under-insured, including prescription drugs, for one year" (S. 4490)


Yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order intended to boost production of essential medicines by requiring federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department, to buy from US manufacturers. It was the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration designed to increase US production of medicines and medical equipment.


The IRS yesterday issued Notice 2020-61, which provides guidance regarding the special rules relating to single-employer defined benefit pension plans under the CARES Act that provide that a contribution that would otherwise be required to be made to such a plan during 2020 is required to be made by January 1, 2021, and special interest adjustment rules that apply to a contribution that is made after the otherwise applicable deadline. Also, Notice 2020-62 modified previous model notices demonstrating how administrators of qualified retirement plans should provide a written explanation of tax consequences when making distributions that are eligible for rollover.

The global EY Tax COVID-19 Response Tracker has been updated through August 6.

Today, August 7 (at 12:00 p.m. ET) is the EY Webcast, "Tax in the time of COVID-19." To determine what information your company needs to know now, join our panelists for a series of conversations about operating the tax function in this time of National Emergency created by the COVID-19 virus. This week's panelists will provide updates on: (i) the US legislative and economic landscape; (ii) breaking developments, including a look at the newly issued Section 163(j) regulations; and (iii) what's happening at the IRS. Register for this Thought Center Webcast.


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For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
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   • Kurt Ritterpusch (