Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) was sworn in on Monday to succeed former Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who stepped down at the end of the year amid ongoing health issues. She will sit on the Agriculture, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and Veterans Affairs Committees. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) succeeds Isakson as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee and Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) filled Isakson’s coveted spot on the Senate Finance Committee.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA). The measure, which has already been approved by the House, passed 25-3, with Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) voting against. Several other Senate committees will now mark up the agreement next week before it will go to the floor for a full Senate vote. USMCA will then need the President’s signature and Canada’s approval before it takes effect. Mexico has already ratified the agreement.
Carranza Confirmed to Small Business Administration
The Senate voted 88-5 on Tuesday to confirm Jovita Carranza to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Carranza is currently the US Treasurer and previously served in the Bush Administration as Deputy Administrator for the SBA from 2006 to 2009. During the 2016 election, Carranza was a member of the Trump campaign’s National Hispanic Advisory Council and will now become the top ranking Hispanic in the Trump Administration.
White House Hosts Greek Prime Minister
President Trump hosted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the White House on Tuesday. The two discussed Greece’s economic recovery, enhancing defense cooperation, and growing bilateral trade. In his remarks, Mitsotakis said, “we look forward to your positive support, we want US businesses to invest in Greece so that we can expand the economy at a rate so striking that people will really feel the difference.”
Digital Services Tax
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) Section 301 hearing on France’s digital services tax (DST) was abbreviated due to a snowy weather forecast. In the morning, groups such as the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents major U.S. tech leaders, called for tough measures, including tariffs, against France in retaliation for the country’s digital services tax. Other groups, including U.S. wine wholesalers and retailers, spoke out about the detrimental impact such retaliation would have on their businesses. The hearing continued on Wednesday with representatives from other sectors, including dairy, testifying.
The Department of Justice, US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) released a joint policy statement on Wednesday revising the government’s policy on standard-essential patents, asserting that patents used in essential technologies, such as 5G and Wi-Fi, will not be subject to different legal rules from other patented technologies.
Bipartisan Bills on 5G Networks Approved
The House voted on Wednesday to approve three bipartisan bills regarding 5G networks. The bills passed nearly unanimously and are designed to further engage the government in 5G policy and development both domestically abroad. On the international side, the Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act and the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act direct the Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information to enhance America’s role in the international 5G standards-settings decisions. The Secure 5G and Beyond Act instructs the President to develop a strategy to protect America’s telecommunications systems and infrastructure and provide allies with the necessary support to do the same.
Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.