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Updated at 1:37 p.m. ET

Amid criticism from Democrats that politics may be guiding decisions at the nation's top health agencies, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration told Congress on Wednesday that a coronavirus vaccine would not be approved until it met "vigorous expectations" for safety and effectiveness.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Jesus Gonzalez was about a year into starting a Cuban food catering and "pop-up" business in Lexington, Ky. It's like "a food truck, but without a truck," he says.

His steadiest gig was setting up tables with a spread of Cuban food at local breweries so people could eat while quaffing pints. But then all that shut down. And he says things aren't back to normal enough yet for the breweries to bring him back.

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An NPR investigation has found irregularities in the process by which the Trump administration awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a Pittsburgh company to collect key data about COVID-19 from the country's hospitals.

The contract is at the center of a controversy over the administration's decision to move that data reporting function from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which has tracked infection information for a range of illnesses for years — to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Updated at 9:10 p.m. ET

After days of delays, congressional Republicans rolled out their proposal for a fifth wave of pandemic relief aid on Monday, setting the stage for a showdown with Democrats, who say the two sides remain far apart.

The plan, which was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., focuses on new funding for schools and a new round of payments to Americans and allows for some additional wage replacement for unemployed workers.

Congress is facing a deadline to extend unemployment benefits for people out of work due to the pandemic. Those payments have made a big impact in Florida.  

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Republican senators and the White House have reached an agreement on major elements of an upcoming coronavirus aid bill but have yet to settle on how to address unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of this month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced late Thursday afternoon that the administration is reviewing the "agreement in principle" and the legislation will be introduced next week.

DeSantis Stays Quiet On Pandemic Liability Issues

Jul 22, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis
News Service of Florida

Twenty-one Republican governors sent a letter this week to congressional leaders arguing that businesses, health care workers and schools need lawsuit protections because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not sign on.

Aging advocates sent a letter to Florida U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott urging Congress to pass an additional coronavirus relief package for long-term care facilities.

Congressional investigators are launching an inquiry into a handful of companies that landed government contracts related to COVID-19, calling the deals "suspicious" because the companies lacked experience and, in some cases, had political connections to the Trump administration.

House members unanimously passed an extension of the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, aimed at helping small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The voice vote came a day after the Senate approved the measure.

The PPP had expired Tuesday at midnight. If President Trump signs the extension, the program will operate through Aug. 8.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, told members of Congress on Tuesday that although he can't predict the ultimate number of infections and deaths related to the coronavirus, "it's going to be very disturbing."

A growing number of leading Republicans are publicly embracing expert-recommended face masks as a means to slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, in the wake of more than 125,000 Americans killed by the virus.

In recent months, the topic of wearing masks has become politically divisive, despite official health guidance that they are one of the best defenses to restricting the spread of the deadly respiratory disease, COVID-19, from one person to another.

Despite the huge outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, the federal agency that regulates them has failed to distribute much of the money it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to two members of Congress.

Safely reopening the nation's public schools will be an expensive and Herculean task without additional help from the federal government. And, until schools do reopen, the nation's most vulnerable children will continue to be hardest hit — losing consistent access to meals, valuable learning time, and vital social-emotional support. Those were just some of the takeaways Wednesday from a hearing of the U.S. Senate's education committee.

North Florida Congressman Al Lawson (D-FL 5) is co-sponsoring the Save Our Streets (SOS)  Act to give small businesses and nonprofits up to $250,000 to help them deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida would get billions of dollars for coronavirus relief through the latest federal aid package proposed by the House, known as the "HEROES Act."


House Democrats plan to move forward with a $3 trillion bill for additional coronavirus relief, following up on the historic $2 trillion aid package passed in March.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had sharp words for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, during Tuesday's Senate committee hearing on the coronavirus.

In arguing for reopening the economy and schools, Paul said, "As much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don't think you're the end-all. I don't think you're the one person who gets to make a decision."

Paul pointed to the mortality rate in New York City of young people up to age 18, which he said was near zero — much lower than for older people.

Updated at 12:21 p.m. on May 2

The White House will not allow the leading immunologist on the coronavirus task force to testify to Congress next week, calling the request "counter-productive" to the administration's efforts to contain the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci's testimony had been requested by the House Appropriations Committee, as part of an investigation into the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A committee spokesman on Friday said the White House had blocked the doctor from appearing before the panel.

In the early 1990s, two dozen House lawmakers pitched an idea of voting electronically. The proposal didn't get very far.

Now, as the coronavirus threat grows, one of original sponsors of that measure is trying again.

"At the time we didn't have ... the electronic communications we have today to safely vote remotely," said Ohio Republican Rob Portman, who is now a senator. "Now we do."

Portman is co-sponsoring a resolution with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois to allow remote voting.

And Portman has a lot more company this time.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET Tuesday

Reps. Mark Meadows, Doug Collins, and Matt Gaetz said Monday that they are self-quarantining after learning they came in contact with a person infected with coronavirus while attending a conservative conference in the Washington area last month.

The Trump administration has dropped one of the meatiest portions of its plan to reduce drug prices.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it will no longer pursue a rule that would have prohibited the payment of certain rebates on drugs in Medicare Part D and Medicaid plans.

The idea was to target the middlemen, pharmacy benefit managers, whose negotiations with drugmakers and insurers influence the costs consumers pay for drugs.

House Dems Announce Sweeping Investigation Of Drug Pricing

Jan 15, 2019

House Democrats announced a sweeping investigation Monday of the pharmaceutical industry's pricing practices, jockeying for the upper hand with the Trump administration on an issue that concerns Americans across the political spectrum.

Time has run out for a program that's provided funding to more than 180 natural areas in Florida.

Sunday, Sept. 30 was the deadline for Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Money from the fund is used to create and maintain city, county and state parks, marinas, protected forests and historic battlefields in Florida and across the country. The fund is supported by fees on offshore oil and gas drilling.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed legislation to address maritime safety issues raised by the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship in October 2015 that departed Jacksonville en route to Puerto Rico.

Florida is waiting on Congress to authorize two efforts that could help address algal blooms plaguing the state's coastal and inland waterways.

As Florida struggles with 'red tide' algae blooms on the west coast and blue-green algae in inland waterways, a federal program to help communities deal with harmful algae outbreaks is set to lose its Congressional authorization at the end of September.

Everglades advocates are telling Congress to get moving on a major restoration project needed to help prevent future algae blooms like the ones currently choking inland and coastal waterways in Florida. 

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