Congress has only nine legislative days to prevent a sweeping federal shutdown before fiscal year (FY) 2020 ends on September 30, prevent a funding lapse for the highway and bridge program, and reauthorize flood insurance among other priorities. That's not even counting the massive must-do: a new round of COVID relief. Welcome back to The Hustle, where we break down what to expect in the lead-up to Election Day!
During August recess, chief negotiators - Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows - clashed over a proposed new package differing significantly on the price tag. Democrats first proposed a $3 trillion package but later said they would accept $2.2 trillion. The Trump Administration has not gone higher than roughly $1.3 trillion. Republicans argue there are funds remaining in state and local government aid and in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and Congress should make those funds more flexible instead of allocating more money. Responding to Congress' stalemate, on August 8, President Trump signed four executive orders to extend unemployment benefits, provide a payroll tax holiday, defer student loan payments, and extend federal protections from evictions.
Senate Republicans made another gesture toward a COVID plan on September 10, when they brought forward a “skinny” coronavirus relief bill which includes $300 in boosted weekly federal unemployment benefits until December 27, another round of PPP money, $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, and liability protections. Democrats, however, found the deal unacceptable and blocked it from passing the Senate. Democrats are insisting on provisions of the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), passed way back in May, wagering that sticking to their guns will force Republicans to concede to spending more on aid.
So, what's next? Here's what we're hearing:
COVID relief: With no clear path forward on a COVID relief bill, the Senate is considering passing government funding and other must-pass vehicles quickly, then going back on recess well before the end of the month. In the House, Democrats facing tough re-elections are pushing their leadership to back off the Heroes Act to advance a more moderate plan, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) backing that idea.
Highway reauthorization: Bicameral leaders are coalescing around extending highway funding for up to a year, despite both chambers having their own reauthorization proposals.
Federal funding: Speaker Pelosi and Sec. Mnuchin have agreed to avoid a pre-election federal shutdown, but how they get there is unclear. Democrats, gambling they will hold more negotiating power after a new Congress is seated, are pushing to extend federal funding at current FY 2020 levels through February 2021. Republicans want a shorter extension to run into November or December, which would set up another shutdown fight before the holidays.
Dates to Watch
September 30: FY 2020 funding, National Institutes of Health, K-12 and workforce education authorization programs, surface transportation authorization (FAST Act), National Flood Insurance Program, child care block grants, veterans health and homelessness programs, and E-Verify all expire
October 5 to November 13: House election recess
October 12 to November 6: Senate election recess
November 3: Election Day
November - December: "Lame duck" legislating and Internal party leadership elections:while it is expected that top figures are likely to stay the same, there could be some surprises…for example, if Biden wins the White House, will House Majority Whip Clyburn stick around?Also, expect jockeying for party caucus chairman and assistant leadership jobs
November 30: Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), community health center funding, and various "health extenders" expire
December 6: President Trump's executive order providing weekly $300 pandemic unemployment supplement expires
December 14: Meeting of Electoral College. The electors meet in each state and cast their ballots for president and vice president. The electors' ballots from all states must be received by the president of the Senate by December 23 (though there is no penalty for missing the deadline), and the U.S. Congress formally counts the electoral votes on January 6
December 31: CARES Act Treasury and Federal Reserve business aid programs, all pandemic-related paid leave programs, and all pandemic-related unemployment programs expire. Tax "extenders" dealing with alcohol and energy expire. Unofficial deadline to pass annual defense authorization act (NDAA)
January 3, 2021: 117th Congress begins (per United States Constitution)
January 20, 2021: Inauguration Day
July 31, 2021: Debt ceiling expires