Biden Transition Team, Response to COVID-19

Over the last week, the Biden team has focused on transition and there have been announcements on a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s an update on last week in DC and a look at what’s expected ahead.

Biden Transition Update 

President-elect Joe Biden named Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff. Klain was most recently an executive vice president at AOL co-founder Steve Case’s venture capital firm, Revolution Capital. Klain is also known for overseeing the United States’ response to Ebola during the Obama administration. He is also expected to provide Biden with expertise in the startup and small business ecosystem, which is essential as we respond to COVID-19.

The President-elect also announced his agency review teams, which are responsible for “understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power, and preparing for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One,” according to the campaign website.

COVID-19 Response

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will discuss the economic impacts of COVID-19 at an event today. Biden’s team will also begin meeting pharmaceutical companies within days amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Separately, two of Biden’s coronavirus advisers said they favor local measures to stem the pandemic, as opposed to a nationwide U.S. lockdown. Vivek Murthy, one of Biden’s advisers on the virus, said that he preferred approach of fighting the disease is “a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity.” 

At 2pm, Vice President Pence leads governors’ video teleconference on COVID-19 response. 

Vaccine Update

Moderna Inc. said its COVID-19 vaccine was 94.5 percent effective in protecting people from the virus. The company plans to ask federal health officials to clear the vaccine for use by early December. Two other companies, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, have also said their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. Pfizer has said it plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize use of the vaccine this month.

The government plans to begin vaccination within 24 hours of a vaccine candidate receiving emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Roughly 20 million people could get a coronavirus vaccine in December and 25 to 30 million could be vaccinated each month afterward, Moncef Slaoui, who co-leads Operation Warp Speed, said.

COVID-19 Funding Package

Next steps on a COVID-19 response package are still up in the air. Pelosi called for negotiations with Republicans on a COVID-19 response package on Friday but no next steps have been outlined. While President Trump has called for a COVID-19 package, he has deferred negotiations to the House and Senate. 

House and Senate Action this Week 

The House returns from its election recess with plans to vote on 55 measures, mostly under expedited procedure. We are sharing relevant expected to be considered this week directly with our clients. The chamber will also hold its leadership elections for the 117th Congress.

The Senate this week has six judicial nominations queued up for consideration. The Senate also has several committee hearings and markups set for this week. 

  • Nominees for three vacancies on the Federal Election Commission are set to be considered at a Wednesday Senate hearing. 
  • The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will consider several measures, including a bill to provide federal funding to educational institutions to replace certain banned foreign telecommunications equipment, including from Huawei and ZTE. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled Thursday to mark up S. 4632, the Online Content Policy Modernization Act, which seeks to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to limit how social media companies moderate third-party content on their platforms.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining on Wednesday will discuss 13 bills. 
  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance scheduled a hearing Thursday on the effects of COVID-19 on insurance providers and policyholders.

This post was written by Ridge Policy Group, a top government affairs firm in Washington, DC and Harrisburg, PA.

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