September 24, 2020
What to expect in Washington (September 24)
The Senate could vote as soon as today (September 24) on the House-passed continuing resolution to: extend government funding through December 11, extend health extenders through that date, and extend both the surface transportation authorization and flood insurance through September 30, 2021; and provide money for the Highway Trust Fund and farm and nutrition aid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said only that the chamber would act well before the expiration of government funding on September 30. Any holdup would not be due to objections to the CR but because of a general delay of Senate business because of partisan tensions over Supreme Court nomination plans (Democrats have this week invoked the two-hour rule, preventing committees from meeting after the chamber has been in for two hours).
A vote this week could mean Senators leave for the October recess and to campaign before the election, with the prospect of being called back for a vote on coronavirus relief or business related to the Supreme Court nomination. Politico reported second-ranking Republican Senator John Thune (R-SD) as saying, "My guess is if we wrap up the CR then yeah we probably should be done for at least a while until something pops on one of those other issues," and reported Democrats could object to the Senate going on recess.
On CNBC this morning, Senate Finance Committee member Pat Toomey (R-PA) said odds for another coronavirus relief/stimulus bill are "pretty far below even between now and the election — after the election, who knows?" He said that was probably the case prior to the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now that the Senate will be focused on the replacement process, "another stimulus bill is less likely." He said he was skeptical of the need for some of the likely ingredients of another bill, like state and local funding and an unemployment benefits add-on, but backs education funding and liability protection provisions. Still, the price of a bill that can pass Congress "has probably gotten to the point where it is too high," Senator Toomey said.
Today at 10 a.m. is the Senate Banking Committee hearing, "The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress," with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.
The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing yesterday, "COVID-19: An Update on the Federal Response," with Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; CDC Director Robert Redfield; HHS Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir; and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. As vaccine "trials go on, we predict that sometime by the end of this year, let's say November or December, we will know whether or not these are safe and effective. And … right now, doses of this vaccine are being produced so that they'll be ready to be distributed," Dr. Fauci said. "We hope — we feel strongly that if we have a combination of adherence to the public health measures together with a vaccine that will be distributed to people in this country and worldwide, we may be able to turn around this terrible pandemic that which we have been experiencing." Dr. Redfield said a vaccine may be widely available by "late March, early April." Dr. Fauci similarly said he expected there to be about 700 million doses of the vaccine by April.
President Trump visits Charlotte, North Carolina, today to discuss his healthcare vision for the nation, which may include an executive order protecting those with preexisting conditions and discussion of drug prices and surprise billing. Today's Washington Post reported that the President wants to further demonstrate his positions on health care, which is a major issue in the election, especially because of the pandemic.
Speaking about the coronavirus at a September 23 news conference, President Trump said, "By cutting red tape and unleashing America's genius, we've reduced the fatality rate 85% since April. "
During a summit in North Carolina September 23, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden "called for a national coronavirus business reopening standard backed by a multibillion-dollar federal testing and PPE supply chain, so that small business owners would not only have consistent health guidance, but the means to carry out those recommendations," and "also addressed the racial wealth gap," CNBC reported.
A new Monmouth University poll of the presidential race in Georgia shows President Trump leading Democratic nominee Biden 48% to 46% (among likely voters).
A Franklin & Marshall College poll of the presidential race in Pennsylvania shows Biden leading President Trump 48% to 42% (among likely voters).
ThinkAdvisor, citing former Clinton and Obama retirement policy adviser Mark Iwry, reported that Biden's plans for retirement savings policy, which include equalizing the tax benefits of retirement plans across the income scale and automatic enrollment in IRAs for workers who do not have a pension or 401(k)-type plan, probably wouldn't be tapped to raise revenue.
Today at 1 p.m. is the House Ways & Means Social Security Subcommittee hearing, "Save Social Security Now." The hearing will feature testimony from Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House members, as well as a third panel consisting of:
On Friday, September 25, is the EY Webcast, "Tax in the time of COVID-19: Update on legislative, economic, regulatory and IRS developments," at 12:00 p.m. ET. The coronavirus (COVID-19) and the resulting economic crisis have made reacting to tax and trade developments more complicated and more difficult. Panelists will provide updates on: (i) the US legislative and economic landscape; (ii) breaking developments — federal and state; and (iii) what's happening at the IRS. Register.