Capitol to Capitol | Dec. 7, 2020

12/7/2020

Bipartisan $908B Funding Package Reignites Stimulus Negotiations, Could be Added to Year-End Funding Deal

The plan, spearheaded by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and supported by the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, is designed to be a short-term extension of federal aid. The proposal provides $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $180 billion for unemployment insurance, $288 billion for small businesses and $82 billion for education. The funding would extend benefits to April 1, 2021. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also circulated a revised coronavirus proposal, which has the support of President Donald Trump. 

Lawmakers will likely vote on a one-week continuing resolution by midweek, pushing the funding deadline back to Dec. 18. This would give lawmakers time to continue negotiating an omnibus spending measure as well as a coronavirus response bill that is expected to be passed in one major package. Senate and House leadership reached an agreement on a $1.4 trillion top-line spending number to be divided across 12 appropriations bills, which are expected to be rolled into one omnibus bill. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

Trump Threatens Veto of NDAA

President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill, unless Congress includes language that abolishes Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields technology companies from liabilities over specific content published by their users. The president for months has pressured Congress to strip the social media companies of the protections, claiming sites such as Twitter and Facebook censor and suppress conservative speech. However, Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a recent interview that he expects Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the bill to the floor “immediately.” Read more

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

DeVos Extends Student Loan Payment Relief

The order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Jan. 31, 2021. Read More.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

NCSL Letter to DOT and FAA on Drones

NCSL and several other national state and local associations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration following the release of a Government Accountability Office report highlighting an effort within the agencies to issue a “unified legal position” concerning unmanned aerial systems. Given the many unresolved legal, technical and policy questions regarding drones, the groups requested the opportunity to engage in more formal consultations with the agencies and that they engage in a public rulemaking with the appropriate notice and comment opportunities.

Only a few days after the letter’s issuance, the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas dismissed with prejudice portions of a lawsuit challenging a Texas drone law establishing no-fly areas around critical infrastructure. Read more. 

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

NCSL and Coalition of State and Local Partners Advocate for Full-Year Extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program

NCSL and a coalition of state and local partners sent a letter to congressional leadership advocating that the TANF program be provided a full-year extension. The coalition requested that, during the extension, Congress partner with organizations like NCSL to develop bipartisan reforms to the program, which is set to expire Dec. 11, 2020. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

House Committee Leadership for 117th Congress Announced

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have announced the committee chairs and ranking members for the 117th Congress.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

FDA Announces Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting

Committee members will meet Dec. 17 to discuss a request for emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. The agency will make background materials available to the public no later than two business days before the meeting. The committee members will provide advice on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness based on data submitted in the EUA request, but any final decisions to authorize the vaccine for emergency use will be made by the FDA. The meeting will be livestreamed on the department’s YouTube and Facebook channels and Twitter account, and from the FDA’s website.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

DOT Issues Transportation Rules for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued new rules to allow for the rapid shipment of COVID-19 vaccines via aircraft and commercial trucks. The aircraft rules establish safety requirements for dry ice and flammable batteries while reducing restrictions on how long flight crews involved in the effort can work. The new rules for trucks provide more flexibility in hours-of-service requirements to conduct COVID-19-related deliveries.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

The Nation’s Report Card Assessments Have Been Postponed Until 2022

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) postponed the reading and mathematics National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments, scheduled to start in January 2021 for fourth- and eighth-graders, until 2022. until 2022. NCES Commissioner James Woodworth stated that at this time, NCES “cannot conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.” Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

Prescription Drug Executive Order Announced

The order includes a drug payment model through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that will lower Medicare Part B payments for certain types of prescription drugs. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Releases Plan to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Along with the newly announced plan to reduce maternal mortality, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams issued a call to action that provided information on the roles everyone can play in improving maternal health.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL’s Washington staff advocates on behalf of state legislatures before Congress, the White House and federal agencies in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies’ positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education