Coronavirus Response

Pandemic Relief Package Compromise Uncertain as Senate Republicans Oppose Cost of Democrats’ Plan; Trump Willing to Press for Deal if Agreement Reached

Capitol Building in Washington, DC side view

President Trump will urge Senate Republicans to approve a pandemic relief deal if an agreement can be reached soon with Democrats, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That message was relayed by Mnunchin to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this week during stimulus negotiations as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) repeated Republican opposition to the latest proposals. (The Hill, Oct. 15 and BGov, Oct. 16)

  • Last month, Senate Republicans attempted to advance a “skinny” COVID-19 aid bill for approximately $500 billion that was blocked by Democrats. (Axios, Sept. 10)

  • The House of Representatives subsequently passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill that was a scaled-down version of their $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed in May. (NBC News , Oct. 1)

  • Recent discussions between Pelosi and Mnuchin have circled around a possible deal that would cost between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

Senate GOP Opposition

Mitch-McConnell-credit-to-Gage-Skidmore-Flickr
  • Senate Majority Leader McConnell, above, commented on whether a compromise within that range is possible, stating, “I don’t think so … That’s where the administration’s willing to go. My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.” (@ericawarner, Oct. 15 and photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

  • McConnell issued a statement this week, pledging to offer another bill in the $500 billion range. “When the full Senate returns on October 19th, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief,” McConnell said.

  • McConnell also commented this week, “You’re correct we’re in discussions with the secretary of the Treasury and the speaker about a higher amount. That’s not what I'm going to put on the floor.” (@ericawarner, Oct. 15)

  • Pelosi has met primarily with Mnuchin during recent weeks to negotiate cost and policy differences affecting a possible COVID-19 package.  Today marks the one-year anniversary since Pelosi and Trump have spoken to one another. (The Hill, Oct. 16)

  • Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues on Thursday night that although agreement with the White House had been reached for a national virus testing and tracing plan, key policy priorities remain unresolved, including aid for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses. (Washington Post, Oct. 15)

  • Even if a framework for a comprehensive agreement is reached among policymakers, developing and passing language for a multi-trillion dollar bill less than three weeks before a presidential election is highly uncertain.

Pelosi also suggested on Oct. 7 that if a deal cannot be reached soon, virus relief funding could be addressed during a post-election, lame-duck session of Congress.  She noted that pandemic relief could be added to a must-pass spending bill needed to keep the government open after Dec. 11, when current funding is scheduled to expire. (BGov, Oct. 7 and Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 2)

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Energy Policy

EPA Launches Voluntary “ENERGY STAR Tenant Space” Program to Certify High Performance Leased Office Suites

EnergyStar Tenant Space

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Oct. 13 launched its voluntary “ENERGY STAR Tenant Space” labeling program to recognize tenants who collaborate with their landlords on design and construction of high performance leased office spaces. (Download EPA's Oct. 15 webinar slides – How to Apply for ENERGY STAR Tenant Space Recognition.)

  • EPA’s new certification for office tenants is now a permanent ENERGY STAR program offering, to complement the agency’s popular “whole building” label. The ENERGY STAR label is a key marketplace influence to signal energy efficient assets, impacting nearly 35,000 buildings and plants nationwide that represent more than 5 billion square feet of commercial space. (ENERGY STAR Facts and Stats)
  • “ENERGY STAR Tenant Space” recognition requires office tenants to estimate their suites’ energy use, separately meter their spaces, use efficient office equipment, and share energy usage data with their landlords. (See EPA’s guide, “How to Prepare for Tenant Space Recognition.”)
  • EPA will also offer access to a new online tool for estimating lighting energy usage within its commonly used Portfolio Manager benchmarking platform. Use of this new lighting assessment function, and requiring an office suite to meet a lighting efficiency “target,” will be a prerequisite for the voluntary Tenant Space label.
  • The Tenant Space label is currently available to office tenants. EPA explained to SPAC members that it intends to expand the program to provide recognition opportunities to retail and warehouse tenants in the coming months.
  • ENERGY STAR building ratings and the corollary Tenant Space program were part of a discussion held October 1 at The Real Estate Roundtable’s offices in Washington, D.C., between EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer. 
  • In a video of the discussion, Wheeler stated he is a “strong” ENERGY STAR proponent and that the agency’s expansion of the label to cover tenant spaces was “the right thing to do.” Wheeler also emphasized these platforms must remain voluntary to encourage additional private-sector technological innovations in buildings and manufacturing. (See video at 12:40 and Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 2)

EPA’s tenant recognition efforts are authorized by the so-called “Tenant Star” law, passed by Congress in 2015 with The Roundtable’s strong backing. (Commercial Property Executive, May 4, 2015)

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