Congressional policymakers struggled today to finalize a bipartisan spending bill to fund the government past September 30 and avoid a shutdown. House and Senate lawmakers disagree on when the temporary funding would expire – Republicans want the stopgap to end on Dec. 18 while Democrats are pushing for Feb. 26. (RollCall, Sept. 14 and Politico, Sept. 18)
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated on September 15 that a vote on the continuing resolution (CR) would be held sometime next week. He added the CR will include language to extend the authorization for surface transportation and the National Flood Insurance Program. “I am going to bring it to the floor early next week and hope that the Senate passes it either later next week or the first part of the following week,” Hoyer said. (BGov, Sept. 18)
COVID-19 Package Negotiations
Congressional leaders remained at an impasse this week on another coronavirus stimulus package, although the Trump Administration signaled compromise is possible. Negotiations between Democrats and White House officials stalled in August. (Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 4)
- GOP lawmakers initially proposed a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal in July. Last week, Senate Republicans attempted to advance a “skinny” COVID-19 aid bill for approximately $500 billion less that was blocked by Democrats. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 11).
- Democrats are currently advocating a package of at least $2.2 trillion following passage of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act by the House of Representatives in May. (Axios, Sept. 10)
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Tuesday that the House would remain in session until an agreement is reached and Hoyer clarified that lawmakers would be on call to return to the Capitol on short notice in the event a deal is reached. (BGov, Sept. 15)
- After a compromise $1.5 trillion pandemic aid proposal from the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus was rejected on Tuesday by congressional Democrats and Republicans, the White House signaled the following day it was open to further negotiations. (New York Times, Sept 15 and Vox, Sept. 16)
- President Trump tweeted on Sept 16, “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows added there was support for more aid to state and local governments and that the Administration would be willing to consider a $1.5 trillion package. (CNBC, Sept 16.
- Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a joint statement after Trump’s tweet, “We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation.”
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this month that the next stimulus bill could be closer to $1.5 trillion. Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said yesterday in response to a question about a $1.5 trillion package: “I would say that’s in the range of plausibility.” (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18)
- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday told Bloomberg TV, “The White House has been making some statements here recently that would never get hardly any Republicans in the United States Senate. So this used to be the White House versus Pelosi up until about now. Now the president’s coming in and saying ‘we can maybe go to $1.5 trillion.’ He better be careful of that because I don’t think that bill could get through the United States Senate.”
- Today, Pelosi told Bloomberg Television that Democrats remain committed to a $2.2 trillion relief package but indicated they may include aid for “airlines, transportation in other forms, restaurants, retail, issues like that” in a relief package. (Transcript of Pelosi Interview on Bloomberg's Balance of Power with David Westin, Sept. 18)
The need for policymakers to produce a pandemic aid package before the November elections will be a focus of discussions during The Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on Sept. 22. Confirmed speakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Financial Services Committee Member Steve Stivers (R-OH).
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