Late last night, after the President addressed the nation from the Oval Office, House Democrats unveiled legislation to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. House Democratic leadership was scheduled to bring the bill to the floor this morning, but Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) is continuing to negotiate with the administration through Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) said that the Senate will forgo its planned recess next week and remain in session as talks continue.
In the meantime, the Capitol complex will begin limiting public access at 5:00 PM today through at least April 1. It remains open to members of Congress, staff, and visitors on official business, though an increasing number of lawmakers are opting to close their offices.
American Energy Innovation Act
This week, the Senate resumed consideration of S. 2657, a bipartisan package of comprehensive energy legislation known as the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), though progress stalled around a controversial amendment related to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The Senate also passed S. 1822, the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which passed the House last week and now goes to the President for his signature. For more on the DATA Act, click here.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) struck a deal on Tuesday to reauthorize three Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) provisions that are set to expire on March 15. The House passed the legislation on Wednesday 278-136. It is unclear when the Senate will take up the measure with the President suggesting this morning that “many Republican Senators” want him to veto it.
House Marks Up Series of Bills on Spectrum and Communications
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology marked up a series of bills on spectrum and communications, including H.R. 451, the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act and H.R. 4855, the Clearing Broad Airwaves for New Deployment (C-BAND) Act.
Coronavirus Task Force
The President has named Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) as his new Chief of Staff, replacing Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Meadows, who recently interacted with an individual infected with coronavirus, has self-quarantined through next week. Several other members of Congress who attended the same event at which the interaction took place have taken similar steps. Meanwhile, Trump attended Tuesday’s Senate Republican weekly lunch to encourage Congress to consider relief, such as tax breaks, for industries and individuals impacted by coronavirus. Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the administration’s coronavirus task force, met with healthcare industry leaders on Wednesday to discuss the response to the outbreak. See below for more details on White House coordination with the technology sector.
Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said during comments at a Free State Foundation event on Tuesday that “Some platforms treat [Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act] as a blank check,” adding that “perhaps there needs to be a more clear definition of both the good faith and for the vague term, ‘otherwise objectionable.’” Rosen’s comments preceded a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on new legislation targeting Section 230.
Digital Services Tax
On Wednesday, the British government confirmed plans to begin implementing a new digital services tax on tech companies of 2 percent on April 1. The government said it would not postpone the tax while waiting for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to broker a more comprehensive deal.
Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.