Roundtable Weekly
Senate Democrats Block Republicans’ COVID-19 Relief Package as Sept 30 Deadline Looms to Fund the Federal Government
September 11, 2020

Capitol Building Dusk

Senate Democrats yesterday blocked Republicans’ attempt to advance a scaled-back COVID-19 relief package. The 52-47 procedural vote, mostly along party lines, did not meet the 60-vote threshold to pass, diminishing the possibility that Congress will enact another pandemic recovery measure before the November elections.  (AP, Sept. 10 and Summary of GOP bill)

  • The Republican “skinny” bill (S. 178) proposed this week is approximately $500 billion less than the GOP’s $1 trillion July coronavirus stimulus proposal.  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)
  • Previously, Congress passed coronavirus relief in March with the $2 trillion CARES Act, which increased unemployment benefits until July 31.  Prospects that unemployed Americans may receive an additional $1,200 stimulus check remain uncertain.  (Roundtable Weekly, August 14 and C/Net, Sept. 10)
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday stated the Trump Administration favored another COVID-19 aid package.  “We want to help businesses that are particularly impacted by this, and we’ll continue to work on proposed new legislation," Mnuchin told Fox News.  (Real Clear Politics, Sept. 6)
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) yesterday said Republicans “may yet be forced to come back to the table because COVID is the major issue that’s facing the American people.”  (AP, Sept. 10)
  • Congressional negotiations on another round of pandemic stimulus between Democrats and White House officials stalled in August.  President Trump then signed four executive orders aimed at providing unemployment aid, eviction protections, student loan relief and payroll tax deferments.  (Roundtable Weekly, August 14)
  • One executive order authorized an additional $300 per week to unemployed beneficiaries from disaster relief funds. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced those funds are near depletion and the program is closed to new applications. (BGov, Sept. 10)
  • White House officials are considering additional unilateral actions to provide targeted relief, according to The Washington Post.  Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to the White House, said, “They’re trying to figure out what they can do legally, what authorities they have, and there are differences of opinion on that. Trump would like to do another flurry of executive orders that would jump-start the economy.”

U.S. Capitol Dome

Government Funding Expires Sept. 30

Lawmakers returned to Washington this week with a five-week legislative schedule in the Senate and four-weeks for the House.  In addition to COVID-19 related legislation, Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass a funding bill to keep the federal government open beyond the end of FY2020 or face a shutdown before the November elections. 

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Secretary Mnuchin have reportedly agreed to work on a temporary funding bill without unrelated policy riders.  A spending bill would likely include continued funding for the National Flood Insurance Program and the EB-5 Regional Center Program, which provides visas to foreign nationals who pool their investments to finance U.S. economic development projects.  (CQ, Sept. 3)
  • A Continuing Resolution (CR) would fund the government at current levels, yet how long such a measure would last is uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday said he supports a stopgap spending bill through December, although Senate Minority Leader Schumer indicated no decisions have been made about the length of a CR.  (The Hill, Sept. 9)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said yesterday, “My guess would be that if we leave in September with a CR we will not come back to do anything before the election.”  (Washington Post, Sept. 9)

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