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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Bill Kovacs. Screengrab via YouTube

A longtime top regulatory official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is retiring. Bill Kovacs, stepping down later this month, has been at the Chamber since 1998 and has a broad portfolio that includes the environment, technology and regulatory affairs.

Why it matters: As America's biggest trade group representing business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents the common denominator position on a host of issues, including environment and energy. How the organization focuses on issues and who it hires holds weight across a wide swath of American industry.

In the wake of his retirement, the Chamber is looking to hire someone to work on environmental and sustainability issues, according to a spokeswoman for the Chamber's energy arm. "With his departure, the policy division is reorganizing and this position will work on environment and sustainability issues," said spokesman Matt Letourneau.

One level deeper: Kovacs has shaped the Chamber's response to environmental regulations for the past couple of decades. In 2009, he said the Chamber was seeking what essentially was a trial for climate change science, according to a Los Angeles Times article at the time. "It would be evolution versus creationism," Kovacs said, according to the newspaper. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

What's next: It's not yet clear who the Chamber will hire to fill the open position, but the organization's position on climate change has apparently shifted over the past decade. Karen Harbert, a top official for the Chamber's energy arm, wrote an op-ed earlier this week opposing President Obama's carbon regulation but acknowledging humans' role in contributing to climate change. Despite some commentary on Twitter, Harbert's comments weren't totally new for the organization. Letourneau said Harbert testified to Congress last year using similar words.

"To be clear, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes that the climate is changing, and that man is contributing to these changes. We also believe that technology and innovation, rather than sweeping federal mandates, offer the best approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change," she said.

Bottom line:

The Chamber talking about climate more openly as a challenge to be addressed is notable, given the president is ignoring the issue altogether. That said, Harbert's op-ed doesn't get into specifics about how technology and innovation can address climate change.

(This story has been corrected, due to an editing error, to change Harbert's first name from Kevin to Karen.)

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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