Current negotiations on a pandemic relief bill remain at a standstill until the results of next week’s elections, which will impact the contours of a potential deal in a “lame-duck” Congress that must also pass funding legislation by Dec. 11 to avoid a partial government shutdown.
- The key players in the relief negotiations– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – both expressed frustration this week about the deadlock over policy differences for a COVID-19 stimulus deal.
- Pelosi detailed seven policy issues where significant disagreements remain in an Oct. 29 letter to Mnuchin – including funding for state and local governments; OSHA and worker liability protections; and unemployment insurance and tax credits for working families. Mnuchin responded with his own letter yesterday, saying the state of negotiations described by Pelosi were inaccurate. (BGov, Oct. 30)
- Pelosi also told the Wall Street Journal this week, “What [Mr. Mnuchin] and I have agreed upon—on how we would go forward—is not necessarily what the Republican Senate will vote on. That is up to the president to convince them that the agreement we have with him is one that will be honored by them.” (WSJ, Oct 28)
Post-Election Lame-Duck Session
President Trump yesterday said, “Once we get past the election, we’re going to get it (pandemic stimulus). It may be bipartisan, it may not have to be... Right after the election, we’ll get it one way or the other.” (Jon Taffer podcast, Oct. 29)
- Trump also said his administration expects negotiations to continue, saying, “After the election we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen …” (The Hill, Oct. 27 and CQ, Oct. 29)
- The cost of a potential package is another major impediment in the negotiations, with the Trump administration considering a ceiling of $1.9 trillion and the Democrats holding at $2.4 trillion. ( Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 23)
- Senate Whip John Thune (R-SD), who is number 2 in the chamber’s leadership, said on Oct. 25 that if Democrats win on Nov. 3, a smaller stimulus bill could be pursued in the lame-duck session, followed by another package in the new year. (BGov, Oct 27)
- House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) added this week he was open to finalizing a “smart Covid package” during the upcoming lame-duck session, commenting he aims to provide certainty for more than 30 tax extenders scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. “We’ve already reached out and are having discussions with (House Ways and Means) Chairman Neal and Democratic leaders on how we might resolve some of those temporary health and tax provisions,” Brady said. (BGov, Oct. 30)
With government funding set to expire on Dec. 11 and many temporary financial safety net programs expiring on Dec. 31, lawmakers could merge some COVID-19 aid measures into a sweeping multi-trillion-dollar omnibus bill to avoid a partial shutdown. (Marketwatch, Oct 21, Washington Post, Oct. 23 and RollCall, Oct. 28)# # #