House Adjourns; Opening Salvo on COVID #4

After the House passed H.R. 748, the CARES Act on Friday, March 27, House leadership cancelled until Monday, April 20.

The goal is for the House to reconvene on April 20. If the virus continues at the current pace, it is safe to assume the Speaker may delay votes even further.

What may surprise you is House Rules do not allow remote voting, remote committee markups, or even remote committee hearings. Therefore, one of the key considerations for reconvening the House will be the ability to provide protocols and procedures to keep Members safe.

Meanwhile, House Leaders are turning their attention to a fourth COVID bill.  

The following House Leaders held a press conference today to discuss infrastructure priorities for a COVID #4 package:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Majority Whip James Clyburn

Chairman Peter DeFazio, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Chairman Frank Pallone, Committee on Energy and Commerce

The infrastructure priorities announced today can be found here: Moving Forward Framework

Pelosi floated the idea, which would lift a $10,000 cap on the federal deduction taxpayers are allowed to take for state and local taxes they pay, as Democrats start to compile their wish list for a “phase four” coronavirus rescue package.

The speaker first floated the idea in an interview with The New York Times published on Monday. Henry Connelly, a spokesperson for Pelosi, later clarified that any changes “would be tailored to focus the benefits on middle class earners and include limitations on the high-end.”

IRS Releases Implementing Regulations

In addition to today’s Congressional announcements, the IRS released regulations implementing provisions of the COVID #2 and COVID #3 bills.

IRS Regulations on Paid Sick Leave Tax Credit and Employee Retention Tax Credit: IRS Fact Sheet

White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

President Donald Trump

  • America continues to wage war to defeat the virus, this horrible, horrible virus.
  • When you look at the numbers from yesterday, they explain why we’re extending our nationwide guidelines to slow the spread for 30 days.
  • Together, we have the power to save countless lives. We’re attacking the virus on every front with social distancing, economic support, medical intervention and banning foreign travel that threatens the health of our people.
  • Every American will do their patriotic duty and help us to achieve a total victory.
  • As nations focus on the coronavirus, there’s a growing threat that cartels, criminals, and terrorists will try to exploit this situation for their own gain.
  • United States is launching enhanced counter narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to protect the American people from illegal narcotics. We cannot let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.
  • In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, the Us Southern Command will increase surveillance disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for drug eradication efforts.
  • We’re deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters, and Air Force surveillance aircraft in the region.
  • Our forces are fully equipped with personnel protective equipment, and we’ve taken additional safety measures to ensure our troops remain healthy.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

  • Today, at the President’s direction, the Department of Defense in close cooperation with our interagency partners, began enhanced counter narcotics operations in eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
  • This initiative is part of the administration’s whole of government approach to combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United States and protecting the American people from their Scourge.
  • Thank United States Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Justice, and members of the intelligence community.
  • President Trump has directed the deployment of additional ships, aircraft and security forces to the United States Southern Command area of responsibility – Navy destroyers and Littoral Combat ships, Coast Guard cutters, P8 patrol aircraft and elements of an Army Security Force Assistance Brigade.
  • Additional forces will double our capacity to conduct counter narcotics operations in the region.
  • 22 partner nations have joined us in this fight.
  • Criminal organizations continue to threaten our security by smuggling cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamines, and other narcotics across our borders.
  • We must do more to prevent these drugs from arriving at our shores.
  • Enhanced counter narcotics operations will further disrupt the flow of illicit drugs to America, deny our adversaries the financial resources they depend on and build the capacity of our partner nations throughout the region.
  • These enhanced operations will keep the pressure on these criminal groups and protect the American people from the devastation caused by the flow of illegal drugs into our country.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley

  • Thank Adm Craig Fowler, Commander of US Southern Command for leading this operation.
  • Have intelligence that the drug cartels, as a result of COVID19, are going to try to take advantage of the situation and infiltrate additional drugs in our country.
  • 70,000 Americans die on an annual basis to drugs.
  • We’re at war with Covid-19. We’re at war with terrorists. We are at war with the drug cartels.
  • They will not come in here and kill additional Americans.
  • We will marshal all assets to prevent entry into this country to kill Americans.
  • Now is not the time to try to penetrate the United States with illegal drugs to kill Americans. With the United States military, we will defend our country, regardless of the cost. 

Attorney General William Barr

  • Thank the President for decisive leadership.
  • Thank Secretary of Defense and all the services for taking on this initiative.
  • We’re all focused on COVID-19, but at the same time, our law enforcement and national security work must go forward protecting the American people from the full array of threats.
  • For the Department of Justice, one of our highest priorities is destroying the Mexican cartels
  • Their trafficking is responsible for the deaths of 70,000 Americans and the families devastated by their loss.
  • The President said that we are in this fight against the cartels to win, and we are not interested in half measures. This is a law enforcement threat and national security threat.
  • And in December building on your success with the Mexican president in forging cooperative relationship in the area of immigration, you asked me to go down and meet with the President Lopez Obrador and our Mexican counterparts to see if we could also establish a more comprehensive and coordinated effort with the Mexicans in confronting the cartels. And we’ve had some successful visits and discussions and currently have an array of activities underway against the cartels. And we anticipate, along with the Mexicans that these are going to bear fruit in the months ahead. But it quickly became clear that we can obtain the most immediate results the best bang for the buck, where we increase the assets involved in interdiction on both the Pacific and Atlantic side of Mexico in the Central American countries.
  • Because of the work by the Defense Department and our intelligence community, we know where these traffickers are at sea.
  • We will now double our capacity and radically improve our interdiction efforts and put tremendous pressure on the cartels.
  • Last week, I announced the unsealing of charges of narco terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes against the former Maduro regime.
  • The cartels have to be defeated, both for the people of this country and for the people of Mexico and Venezuela.

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien

  • Today’s action is another example of the bold leadership of President Trump and his commitment to protect our homeland.
  • The uncontrolled flow of illegal drugs into the US poisons our communities, fuels the dangerous epidemic of addiction and threatens the safety and security of all Americans.
  • The impressive US Navy Coast Guard, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and interagency operation will address a range of threats to our national security posed by narco traffickers and narco terrorists.
  • We’ll continue to put maximum pressure to counter the Maduro regimes activities including drug trafficking.
  • Maduro, narco terrorists and criminals should make no mistake that even as we are working around the clock to fight the spread of front of coronavirus, we will continue to execute the President’s counter narcotics strategy.
  • We’ll continue to combat disinformation and fake news about this virus.
  • We’ll work with the world’s largest oil producers to address volatility in global oil markets.
  • Always protect our servicemen and servicewomen around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • President Trump and Vice President Pence are working tirelessly every day to protect the health and well-being of the American people.
  • It would be a mistake for any adversary to attempt to do us harm during this health crisis, or ever for that matter.

Secretary Esper answered questions about the counter narcotics operation and how the drug cartels intend to exploit the COVID-19 crisis. President Trump answered questions about shipping personal protective equipment (PPE) to other countries.  President Trump stated he would ship supplies to help the 151 countries who are also under siege from the coronavirus. He also addressed press reports about the lack of supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile.

Full remarks and additional topics covered in the answer and question portion of the briefing can be found here: April 1 Briefing

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