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@MyKitchenTable - December 8, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Dear Friend:

Those of you that know me a little bit know my spirit for the Michigan Wolverines, and I’ve been often quoted that when they lose, I sleep in the basement at everyone in my family’s bequest.  Even John Kerry, when we both served on the “Super Committee” told me that he began to root for Michigan as I was in a much better mood on Monday, if they won.  Last week, my quote was one that "I would rather try and lose than lose without trying." Though I certainly regret the reason why, I am overjoyed that Michigan will not lose at Columbus this Saturday - especially as a 30-point underdog, and my socks will not be thrown at the TV.  Let’s hope they all recover from this dreadful COVID pandemic.


On the House floor yesterday (removed my mask only for speaking)

We are in the throes of the lame duck session with lots of issues coming to a head. The ‘21 Fiscal Year began Oct. 1 and a Continuing Resolution (CR) was signed by the president preventing a shutdown and extending funding through Dec. 11. The Appropriations Committee has failed to produce an extension for the balance of the Fiscal Year and to prevent a shutdown, we will likely pass a 7-day extension on Wednesday which will require a 2/3 vote for passage (thus no amendments can be offered and will not require a simple majority for passage). Funding continues therefore without increases or decreases at FY ‘20 levels. Hopefully an agreement can be passed completing the funding for FY ‘21 next week.

Likely coupled with that will be elements of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) $908B initiative that we unveiled last week.  Aid for small businesses (PPP), broadband, health care providers, unemployment funding, educators, state/local funding (no money to bail out pension funds or past deficits...only itemized losses of tax revenue—sales and gas taxes—would qualify), and liability protections, are the main sections of our proposal, and we expect to release those individual sections within the next 24 hours or so.  Our main “sticking” point is trying to write the liability provisions and have failed so far to come together with the proper language.  

Mitch McConnell announced last Spring that liability protections would need to be a part of the proposal to advance through the Senate.  Without language there, it could well be that the funds to help our municipalities revenue losses would also drop out and therefore provide a force to ensure that both topics would gain traction in a Biden Administration to be addressed in February or March.  

I spoke on a conference call as a guest on the PPP Forgiveness Coalition with more than 150 industry stakeholder organizations for an update which included the US chamber, American Farm Bureau, Independent Community Bankers, Home Builders, Realtors, and NFIB.  I let them know that I would be posting the sections on this website of the COVID package when available. 

One major element that the PSC had in our September COVID proposal that is not in the present one are individual stimulus checks. Bernie Sanders conceded yesterday that the democrats held up the COVID package in September as the Republicans would get credit prior to the election for the individual checks.  CNN host Jake Tapper asked Sanders whether it was a mistake for Democrats to walk away from the White House’s $1.8T, which included the individual payments when Speaker Pelosi was proposing a $2.2T.  

The “bar” was then lowered to <$1T and the individual stimulus checks do not fit within that window.   Included in the PPP provisions are the tax-free consequences for small businesses that took advantage of the program last spring. I have heard from a good number of small businesses who have barely held on that wonder if they still can if they are then liable for perhaps a 30% tax on those loans/grants.  CNN reported that as many as 10,000 restaurants are expected to close in the next 3 week with 17% (110,000) already permanently closed in ‘20. It is paramount that the signal is sent ASAP to all the PPP recipients as we close out 2020 that there will be no tax consequence. You can see that CNN story HERE.

HHS has released a number of important dates this next week (ie: FDA Vaccine Advisory Board will meet 12/10 to discuss the Emergency Use Authorization—EUA—for Pfizer’s vaccine) which you can see HERE

Today I announced that the FCC spectrum auction expanded broadband to some 16,280 southwest Michigan rural homes and businesses allocating some $13M to help close the digital divide.  FCC Chair Pai said, “We structured this innovative and groundbreaking auction to prioritize bids for high-speed, low-latency service to deliver the best results for rural Americans....and the Commissions single largest step ever taken toward delivering digital opportunity to every American...” You can read more HERE.

We are nearly 4 years to the day of President Obama signing 21st Century Cures into law.  I was then Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee where Diana DeGette (D-CO) and I led the legislative path for this bipartisan legislation to be enacted.  She and I zoomed today with the Milken Institute Health Summit on an update of the 21st Century Cures legislation that we hope to pass in the next Congress which we call “Cures, 2.0.” It was moderated by Politico, and we referenced that we truly expedited the approvals of drugs and devices keeping the important FDA safeguards and looking back, can probably claim that we shaved many months off what would have been the approval process for a COVID vaccine.  You can see that 30-minute zoom call HERE.

Lastly, last night I led a 30-minute Special Order on the House Floor (photo at the top) honoring my successor, Greg Walden (R-OR) as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is retiring with this Congress.  Democrats and Republicans praised his bipartisan leadership on a host of issues impacting Americans with opioid, telecommunication, community health centers, and Children’s Health among other pieces of important legislation. You can see that C-SPAN 30 minute broadcast HERE.

All the best,

Fred Upton

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