What's the Status of the 'Phase 4' Coronavirus Relief Bill? Lame Duck Session Heats Up, But Little Progress on a Bipartisan Bill
Do you want Congress to reach a compromise on a new coronavirus relief bill?
What’s the latest?
- Lawmakers are trying to negotiate a compromise relief package to support the economic and healthcare recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. After talks failed to make progress, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive actions on August 8th to extend expiring COVID-19 relief measures. While a bipartisan compromise could still be reached, no meetings between lead negotiators have been scheduled.
- Talks regarding the “phase 4” package have accelerated with the expiration of the $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit on July 31st, but not much progress has been made in bridging the gap between the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act put forward by Democrats and the $1 trillion HEALS Act favored by Republicans.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are leading the negotiations for Democrats. For Republicans, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows representing the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers, and they're keeping Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) informed.
- Much like the prior coronavirus relief packages, a compromise bill will need to have enough bipartisan support to gain 60 votes in the Senate, pass the House with a simple majority, and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
What’s happening in Congress?
UPDATE 11/12/20 - Senate starts lame duck and House returns next week, but no signs of progress on a bipartisan bill.
- Leaders on both sides have said they want to pass COVID-19 relief legislation by the end of the year. But at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be movement toward a compromise bill capable of becoming law.
- Democrats are insisting that a relief bill be at least $2.2 trillion, the size of their Updated HEROES Act which passed along party-lines on October 1st; while Republicans are sticking with their preference for a “targeted” bill in the neighborhood of $500 billion, which Democrats filibustered in September and October.
- The Senate reconvened on Monday for its first day of floor work since October 26th, when it voted to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he will continue to press for a targeted COVID-19 package while working on other priority issues, such as funding the government beyond December 11th:
“The Senate’s going to have a busy few weeks. I hope our Democratic colleagues will finally put aside their all-or-nothing obstruction and let targeted pandemic relief move forward. In any event, we will need to fund the government, reach agreement with the House on the National Defense Authorization Act, and confirm more thoroughly-qualified nominees.”
- The House will return on Monday, November 23rd for its first day of floor work since October 2nd, when it passed Democrats’ $2.2 trillion Updated HEROES Act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of the impasse, “Our position is the same it has been all along. We’re at the same place. Even more so.”
UPDATE 10/15/20 (1pm EDT) - Senate to return for vote on a $500 billion “targeted” COVID-19 relief bill as Pelosi-Mnuchin talks stall.
- The Senate is set to return next week for a vote on Republicans’ “targeted” $500 billion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief bill amid the ongoing impasse in negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Trump administration regarding a larger package.
- The bill is expected to be similar, if not identical, to a $500 billion package that got a vote in September, which included $300 billion in new money and repurposed about $200 billion in unspent funding from the CARES Act. That package would’ve provided $105 billion in funding for schools to help with in-person and remote learning, extended federally-enhanced unemployment benefits, replenished forgivable small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, and provided funding for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccine development.,
- Senate Democrats blocked the COVID-19 relief package in September, as all 46 Democrats in attendance voted no along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and it fell on 52-47 vote, eight votes shy of the 60 needed to continue the debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed skepticism that this time will be any different:
“What I’ll put on the floor is a half a trillion dollars ― that’s a lot of money ― half a trillion dollar program to target the actual needs that the country has. I’m not anticipating that [Democrats] are going to support it.”
- President Donald Trump upped his counteroffer to Democrats from $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion, but Pelosi has continued to insist that a relief bill must be at least $2.2 trillion. When Pelosi was pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on why she wouldn’t accept a smaller deal despite some Democrats openly saying she should, Pelosi accused Blitzer of being an “apologist” for the Republican position.
- The House is not currently in session, although lawmakers were advised before recess began that they may be recalled for votes with at least 24 hours of notice a deal has been reached.
UPDATE 10/7/20 (3pm EDT) - Pelosi and Mnuchin discuss a standalone airlines relief bill and will continue talks, but no action imminent.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked this morning after Mnuchin called to ask about the possibility of passing a standalone airlines relief bill. Airlines have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and have been slow to recover, prompting numerous furloughs and layoffs at airlines across the country.
- It was their second discussion since Tuesday afternoon when President Donald Trump broke off negotiations over a larger coronavirus relief package until after the election due to a lack of progress, and signaled he would support targeted, standalone relief bills in the meantime.
- According to her staff, Pelosi told Mnuchin to review an airlines relief bill offered by Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) last week. Democratic leadership didn’t schedule the bill for a floor vote, and Republicans blocked an effort to pass the bill by unanimous consent.
- If Pelosi and Mnuchin are able to reach an agreement on a standalone bill (or potentially multiple standalone bills), it’s possible that the House and Senate could pass them by unanimous consent or voice vote during a pro forma session. But if that’s not feasible, lawmakers in both chambers may be recalled for a floor vote with 24 hours of notice.
UPDATE 10/6/20 (11:40pm EDT) - President Trump tweets support for narrow standalone coronavirus relief bills including stimulus checks and business aid.
- President Donald Trump sent a pair of tweets Tuesday night calling for Congress to pass narrowly tailored coronavirus relief bills. The first tweet read:
“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business. Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”
- Trump’s second tweet read:
“If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy? @MarkMeadows @senatemajldr @kevinomccarthy @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer”
- Pelosi and Democratic leadership haven't yet responded to the president's call for standalone coronavirus relief bills, which comes hours after Trump said negotiations should stop until after the election unless Democrats relent on their insistence that a package total $2.2 trillion.
UPDATE 10/6/20 (3:40pm EDT) - President Trump rejects Democrats’ coronavirus relief proposal, breaks off negotiations until after the election.
- President Donald Trump announced in a tweet thread on Tuesday that he is breaking off negotiations over coronavirus relief until after the election unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democrats drop their demand that a deal be at least $2.2 trillion, the size of their Updated HEROES Act. Trump’s tweet thread read:
“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country.
I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business. I have asked @senatemajldr Mitch McConnell not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.
Our Economy is doing very well. The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”
- In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement which accused the president of “putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress. Walking away demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus, as is required by the Heroes Act.” She added that:
“Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray. Sadly, they are rejecting the urgent warnings of Fed Chairman Powell today, that ‘Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses. Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.’”
- Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been continuing their conversation about coronavirus relief in recent days, but haven’t made any demonstrable progress as they haven’t produced a bipartisan compromise.
- Republicans initially proposed a $1 trillion package known as the HEALS Act in response to Democrats’ $3.4 trillion HEROES Act. Most recently, the GOP expressed a willingness to take up a bill in the $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion range, similar to the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus's $1.5 trillion package, while Democrats were willing to come down to $2.2 trillion with their Updated HEROES Act.
- Despite some progress in narrowing the divide in recent months, negotiators haven’t been able to compromise over that roughly $600 billion.
UPDATE 10/1/20 (8:10pm EDT) - Pelosi declines White House’s $1.6 trillion offer, Democrats pass their $2.2 trillion Updated HEROES Act.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled Thursday night that despite lengthy conversations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over coronavirus relief, they aren’t close to a compromise but will keep talking.
- The lack of progress prompted Democrats to forge ahead with a vote on their $2.2 trillion Updated HEROES Act on Thursday night. It passed on a relatively narrow 214-207 vote, with all Republicans and 18 Democrats opposed.
- Moderate Democrats have been increasingly vocal in their calls for the House to pass a compromise bill that can become law instead of a partisan messaging bill, but Pelosi has stood firm in insisting on a $2.2 trillion package.
- Pelosi rejected the Trump administration’s latest counteroffer ― a $1.6 trillion package that is slightly larger than the $1.5 trillion bill drafted by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group which includes many of the Democrats who voted against the Updated HEROES Act.
- Time appears to be running out for the House to pass a compromise coronavirus relief package before the election. Under the current House calendar, Friday is the chamber’s last scheduled day in session for floor votes until after the election, although lawmakers could be recalled with 24 hours of notice if a deal is reached.
UPDATE 9/30/20 (8:30pm EDT) - Negotiations continue, but few signs of progress as Wednesday ends.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met Wednesday and are continuing negotiations in search of a deal on coronavirus relief, but there’s still a significant gap between the two sides.
- Mnuchin countered the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion proposal with a package in the neighborhood of $1.6 trillion, slightly more than the bill drafted by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. He told reporters that, “We’re not going to do a $2.2 trillion deal” and that if “there’s a fair compromise, we’re willing to do it.”
- Pelosi released a statement saying that while she and the secretary continue their conversations, the House will move ahead with Democrats’ $2.2 trillion relief bill, with a vote on final passage possible as early as Thursday if a deal isn’t near. Democrats have so far insisted that they won’t accept a bill below $2.2 trillion.
UPDATE 9/29/20 (3:15pm EDT) - White House and Democrats resume conversations over a relief package, but are yet to make significant progress on a deal.
- The White House and congressional Democrats have been discussing a coronavirus relief package over the last week, but so far a compromise continues to be elusive.
- On Monday, Democrats introduced a new $2.2 trillion relief package, which is more or less a version of the HEROES Act that’s been reduced in size from $3.4 trillion to Democrats’ preferred compromise amount of $2.2 trillion.
- Democrats may bring the legislation to the floor for a vote as early as Wednesday depending on how negotiations progress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke about the bill on Tuesday morning, and plan to speak again on Wednesday to see if they’re able to find a way to meet in the middle.
- Republicans have so far expressed a willingness to move up from the $1 trillion price tag in their HEALS Act as high as $1.3 trillion, or to agree on a narrower package in the neighborhood of $300 billion to $500 billion.
- To date, Democrats have insisted on going no lower than $2.2 trillion, deeming the GOP plans and a $1.5 trillion package offered by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus as insufficient. As a result, it’s unclear whether Congress will be able to reach an agreement before the end of the week ― which is expected to be the House’s last week in session until after Election Day.
UPDATE 9/17/20 - House Democrats reject bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill drafted by ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’.
- The 50 member, bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus released a $1.5 trillion framework for coronavirus relief on Wednesday, but Democratic leaders rejected it out of hand later in the day.
- Democratic committee chairs released a joint statement saying that it “falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.”
- There is reason to think that the Problem Solvers’ framework will likely resemble what the next phase of COVID-19 relief would look like if a bipartisan deal is reached.
- Some Republicans have expressed a willingness to support a $1.3 trillion or $1.5 trillion package, and at least one Senate Democrat, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), called for the Senate to bring the package up for a vote. That may be the likeliest (and only) path forward for the Problem Solvers framework given the opposition of House Democratic leaders.
- Read more about what the $1.5 trillion Problem Solvers Caucus framework would do to address the various aspects of the COVID-19 crisis here.
UPDATE 9/10/20 - Senate Democrats block GOP coronavirus relief package.
- The Republican effort to pass a $300 billion COVID-19 package was blocked by Democrats as expected on Thursday. It failed 52-47, well shy the 60 votes needed to advance.
- All Democrats who were in attendance voted against the bill, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only Republican to vote no.
- It’s unclear what will happen next in coronavirus relief negotiations, or whether there will be any genuine movement toward a bipartisan bill out of the ongoing stalemate.
- While progress in coronavirus relief talks this month is far from a certainty, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have indicated that they aren’t planning to include COVID-19 measures in a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government beyond September 30th, which could complicate efforts to avoid a partial government shutdown.
UPDATE 9/9/20 (9pm EDT) - Senate to vote on GOP coronavirus relief package Thursday, but partisan gridlock likely to prevail.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled a Thursday procedural vote on a “targeted” $300 billion COVID-19 relief package known as the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act.
- The bill would provide $105 billion in additional funding to schools to help with in-person and remote learning, extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits through the end of the year, replenish funding for small business Paycheck Protection Program loans, and increase funding for vaccine procurement and distribution.
- Democratic leadership has indicated that they oppose the narrowly tailored package, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called it “emaciated” and continue to call for a $2.2 trillion bill.
- If the cloture motion manages to get 60 votes, further debate on the bill would be limited to 30 hours, setting up a vote either Friday or next week. If all Republican senators vote in favor, at least seven Democrats will need to join them for the motion to succeed.
UPDATE 8/27/20 (5:30pm EDT) - Meadows-Pelosi call fails to rekindle negotiations.
- Thursday brought the first formal communication between any of the four lead negotiators since talks about another COVID-19 relief package broke down and President Trump took executive action three weeks ago. Once again, no progress was made in reaching a compromise.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) foreshadowed the continuing gridlock during her weekly press conference earlier in the day when she said Democrats are willing to drop the total from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion, “But we can’t go any less because we have to meet the needs of the American people. We will not shortchange them.” She added that it “could be a very short conversation if they’re not willing to meet in the middle. We’re not budging. Understand this … They have to move.”
- After the 25 minute call, Pelosi released a statement which read in part:
“This is not about dollars, this is about values. These investments will not only help crush the virus, they will also help bolster the economy. The Administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the funding levels that experts, scientists and the American people know is needed leaves our nation at a tragic impasse.”
- Meadows hasn’t yet commented on his meeting with the speaker, but at a press event hosted by Politico on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows noted that Congress will need to fund the government to avoid a shutdown at the end of September and said it could factor into coronavirus relief negotiations:
“I think that if we do a COVID deal right now, we ought to just do a continuing resolution as part of that solution so that we take a shutdown off the table… I think the speaker is going to hold out until the end of September and try to get what she wants in the funding for the government during the CR or whatever funding mechanism happens to come up at the end of September.”
UPDATE 8/15/20 (9pm EDT) - White House meets with members of congressional “Problem Solvers Caucus” in bid to restart negotiations.
- White House Chief of Staff Mark Mark Meadows met on Friday with members of the bipartisan “Problem Solvers Caucus” in an effort to provide momentum for stalled coronavirus relief legislation.
- NBC News reported that participants included Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Tom Reed (R-NY), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Pete Stauber (R-MN).
- Further meetings between the Problem Solvers Caucus and the White House may occur while lawmakers are on recess.
UPDATE 8/14/20 (6pm EDT) - Senate joins House on August recess without a deal.
- The Senate adjourned Thursday afternoon and joined the House, which was last in session for floor work on July 31st, on August recess.
- Negotiations remain at an impasse, and it’s unclear whether there will be any progress made while lawmakers on recess.
- The Senate is scheduled to return for its next votes on Tuesday, September 8th, while the House’s next scheduled day in session is Monday, September 14th.
- Lawmakers may be recalled with at least 24 hours of notice before a vote occurs.
UPDATE 8/12/20 (6:15pm EDT) - Negotiators issue dueling, finger-pointing statements as partisan stalemate continues.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement which read:
“An overture was made by Secretary Mnuchin to meet and he made clear that his televised comments from earlier today still stand: the White House is not budging from their position concerning the size and scope of a legislative package. Democrats have compromised. Repeatedly, we have made clear to the Administration that we are willing to come down $1 trillion if they will come up $1 trillion. However, it is clear that the Administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing. We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously. The lives and livelihoods of the American people as well as the life of our democracy are at stake.”
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a rebuttal statement which read:
“Earlier today, Speaker Pelosi and I spoke by phone. Her statement is not an accurate reflection of our conversation. She made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agree in advance to support her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion. The Administration is willing to move forward with legislation that allows for substantial funds for schools, child care, food, vaccines, hospitals, PPP for small businesses, rental assistance, broadband, airports, state and local government assistance, and liability protection for universities, schools, and businesses. The Democrats have no interest in negotiating.”
UPDATE 8/10/20 (9pm EDT) - Senate reconvenes with no deal in sight.
- The Senate formally started its work week Monday with nothing on the agenda, with negotiators not having made any progress on compromise coronavirus relief legislation since talks broke down Friday and President Donald Trump signed off on a series of executive actions to extend some coronavirus relief measures on Saturday.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated Monday afternoon that while he had spoken with several Democrats since negotiators last met, but not with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed Democrats for the impasse, saying they held a coronavirus relief package hostage for “non-COVID-related liberal priorities,” and tweeted:
“I hoped this week we’d be finalizing major legislation. After all, American families are struggling and need help. But Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer decided not to deliver. I am glad the president stepped in to soften the blow of their hostage tactics.”
- Schumer countered in remarks on the Senate floor that:
“Rather than compromise, our Republican counterparts said ‘take a hike.’ Quite literally, they said this in the room: “No, it’s going to be our way or no way. We’re not going to meet you in the middle.” Why? Why wouldn’t they? When the needs are so great, when the needs are so great, when there are so many people are suffering and so many more who will suffer if we don’t act.”
- While some senators are still in D.C., the rest remain on standby to return to the Capitol for votes with at least 24 hours of notice of the scheduled vote. The House is on the second week of its August recess, although members are on a similar 24 hour notice to return.
UPDATE 8/7/20 (4pm EDT) - Partisan impasse on coronavirus relief continues into the weekend as talks fail to generate progress, Trump admin to draft executive orders.
- After a Friday afternoon meeting, the lead negotiators for the Trump administration & Democratic leadership in Congress signaled that they haven’t made progress in bridging the partisan divide on several key aspects of coronavirus relief, and that negotiations are done for the immediate future.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said of the meeting that, “The president would like us to make a deal, but unfortunately we did not make any progress.” He added that they would be happy to come back to talks if Democrats have new proposals.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that “we’re far apart” and that she told Mnuchin & White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to “come back when you’re ready to give us a higher number.”
- Mnuchin & Meadows indicated that the Trump administration will begin the process of drafting executive orders to extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits, protections against rental foreclosures, and student loan forbearance. It’s unclear whether there will be any legal challenges against those executive actions when they occur, or whether those challenges will succeed.
- It’s possible that Congress could still vote on coronavirus relief legislation this August if a deal is reached. The House has been on recess for the last week and is expected to remain so through Labor Day unless negotiators reach a compromise, in which case lawmakers would have 24 hours to return ahead of votes. This week was supposed to be the Senate’s last work week until after Labor Day, but the Senate will be nominally in session next week with senators given 24 hours notice of votes.
- There will also be an opportunity to pass coronavirus relief legislation during Congress’s September work session, which is already expected to be dominated by work on spending bills given the beginning of fiscal year 2021 on October 1st.
UPDATE 8/5/20 (2:45pm EDT) - McConnell to keep the Senate in session for at least one more week while negotiations continue.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Wednesday that the Senate is expected to remain in session next week and may delay the start of its August recess even further so negotiations toward a coronavirus relief deal can continue:
“We’re certainly going to be in next week. We’ll see what happens after that.”
- The House remains on recess with lawmakers on standby to return to Capitol Hill for votes with at least 24 hours of notice.
UPDATE 8/4/20 (8:30pm EDT) - Negotiators haven’t reached a deal yet, but agree on a timeline for reaching one.
- While Democrats’ & Republicans’ four lead negotiators were once again unable to reach an agreement after negotiations, Tuesday did bring some clarity about when a deal may be reached.
- The timeline would reportedly involve continued bipartisan negotiations this week with the goal of reaching an agreement before votes on the House & Senate floor next week.
- The Senate was previously scheduled to begin its August recess this weekend, while House lawmakers began theirs after their final vote last week, although if a deal is reached they would be recalled to the Capitol for votes.
- The four key negotiators will hold a separate meeting on Wednesday with the Postmaster General to discuss what the U.S. Postal Service needs to cope with the expected increase in the use of mail-in ballots (either absentee or general vote-by-mail) in the November election.
UPDATE 8/4/20 (11:40am EDT) - Negotiators to meet again Tuesday in search of progress on a deal.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are expected to hold another round of talks about coronavirus relief legislation on Tuesday.
- Today’s meeting between the key negotiators is expected to occur in the afternoon, after Meadows & Mnuchin have lunch with Senate Republicans at 1pm Eastern.
UPDATE 8/3/20 (2:25pm EDT) - Speaker Pelosi says a deal may not be attainable until next week as negotiations continue.
- After a coronavirus relief meeting with lead negotiators, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly told Democratic lawmakers that while she hopes they can reach a deal this week, it may take more time:
“Chuck and I are determined to get an agreement, determined to get it as soon as we can. My hope is we could do it this week, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration would be “open to a bigger package if we can reach an agreement,” and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) echoed that sentiment on the floor after the meeting:
“There’s a long list of things that are needed. And the good news, our Republican colleagues agree with a few of them, but some they don’t agree with. And we are discussing why we think they need them and they’ll counter with others in the room, Mnuchin and Meadows.”
- With the Senate scheduled to go on recess next week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on the floor that senators should stay in D.C. until a deal is done:
“There’s no reason we can’t come together and reach an agreement this week, and get relief on the way to those who need it most. The Senate should not recess. We should not go back home for the August break until the next coronavirus bill is complete.”
UPDATE 8/1/20 (1pm EDT) - Negotiators cite progress but no deal yet after Saturday morning meeting.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hosted coronavirus relief negotiations that went on for more than 3 hours Saturday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in attendance.
- Attendees told reporters that while they’re still far apart on a number of key issues, they made progress in the meeting.
- Staffers will continue talks Sunday, with the four lead negotiators set to meet again Monday.
UPDATE 7/31/20 (12pm EDT) - House takes final vote of the week, adjourns as search for a deal continues.
- The House passed a $1.367 trillion "minibus" spending bill on a mostly party-line 217-197 vote Friday. It was the House’s final vote of the week and the chamber’s adjournment comes without a specific return date set, as the House of Representatives was expected to begin its August recess.
- Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated he will call the chamber back into session with 24 hours of notice at minimum to lawmakers so they can make arrangements to return for votes. Congress’s departure without a deal in hand means that the earliest point at which a deal can be enacted is early next week.
- Democrats & Republicans still seem to be far apart on numerous key issues. That includes $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefit, which officially expires today even though many beneficiaries got their last check a week ago.
- Twice on the Senate floor Thursday, efforts by Republican Sens. Martha McSally (R-AZ) & Ron Johnson (R-WI) to extend the enhanced UI for a week by unanimous consent were rejected by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). And off the floor, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Trump administration was prepared to extend the benefit for four months at $600, but Democrats insisted it be extended through the first quarter of 2021 ― two months longer than the extension they included in their HEROES Act.
- The four lead negotiators ― Pelosi, Mnuchin, Schumer, and Meadows ― have a meeting scheduled for Saturday morning.
UPDATE 7/30/20 (11pm EDT) - President Trump outlines his priorities for a coronavirus relief package.
- In remarks during a White House Press Briefing on Thursday, President Donald Trump outlined four things he wants to see in coronavirus relief legislation that he would sign into law if Congress could pass it in a bipartisan manner.
- “First, we want a temporary extension of expanded unemployment benefits. This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”
- “Second, we’re asking Democrats to work with us to find a solution that will temporarily stop evictions.”
- “Third, we need Democrats to join us to pass additional economic relief payments for American citizens, like the payments sent directly to 160 million Americans earlier this year, which was a tremendously successful program.”
- “My administration is also asking Democrats to work with us to pass $105 billion to help schools safely reopen.”
UPDATE 7/30/20 (4pm EDT) - Senate Republicans vote to start floor debate on extending pandemic unemployment benefits as negotiators struggle to find common ground.
- Senate Republicans adopted a procedural motion to start debate on a bill that would serve as the legislative vehicle for a to-be-agreed deal extending federally enhanced pandemic unemployment insurance benefits.
- The 47-42 vote was mostly along party-lines, with all Democrats plus Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) & Rand Paul (R-KY) opposed. Thursday afternoon’s vote is likely the last of the week, and with the Senate’s next day in session scheduled for Monday.
- The House is expected to be in session again on Friday before departing for a weekend that was supposed to mark the beginning of the chamber’s August recess. However, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that members should be prepared to return to the Capitol with 72 hours notice during the first week of August in case a deal is reached.
- With the Senate returning Monday & the House on standby, it’s possible that a breakthrough in negotiations won’t occur until next week when the bill could be considered by both chambers. But it’s not a certainty that they’ll be able to reach a compromise, as both sides are relatively far apart.
- After the procedural vote failed, there was another exchange of dueling (and rejected) unanimous consent requests from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) sought to pass a one-week extension of the $600 federal unemployment benefit enhancement to keep it active while negotiations continue, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected to. Schumer then repeated his UC request that the Senate pass Democrats’ HEROES Act, which McSally objected to.
UPDATE 7/30/20 (1pm EDT) - Democratic & Republican senators offer & reject dueling unanimous consent requests.
- With negotiations still at an impasse, senators from both sides of the aisle took to the floor to offer their thoughts about the failings of their rival's proposal.
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked for unanimous consent to pass a bill that would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected, and asked unanimous consent to pass the Democrats' HEROES Act, which Johnson objected to.
UPDATE 7/29/20 (3pm EDT) - Negotiations remain at an impasse, short-term unemployment extension proposed.
- The bipartisan talks over a “phase 4” coronavirus relief package have not yet yielded much progress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that “we’re very far apart” and said President Donald Trump would support a short-term extension of the federal unemployment benefits to allow more time for talks if a deal isn’t reached by Friday.
- Politico reported that during a Tuesday meeting between Pelosi, Schumer, Meadows, and Mnuchin, the Speaker explained the differences between the Democratic & Republican bills:
“It’s like a giraffe and a flamingo. They’re both at a zoo. A dumb person may think they could mate for offspring. A smart person knows that’s impossible. That’s our bills. They’re unable to mate.”
- Schumer added that “a golden retriever can’t mate with a Chihuahua. You have a Chihuahua. We have a beautiful lion,” which Pelosi noted is a cat and thus unable to mate with the dog.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for the removal of extraneous, non-coronavirus relief provisions such as the $1.75 billion in funding for FBI headquarters favored by the White House, or the state and local tax (SALT) cut included in Democrats’ HEROES Act:
“Let me speak for myself, I am opposed to non-germane amendments. Whether it’s funding for the FBI building, or for example, in the House bill, whether it’s a cut for high-income earners in blue states, or other non-germane amendments in the House like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants. When we get to the end of the process I would hope all non-COVID related measures are out -- no matter what bills they were in at the start.”
What are some sticking points in “phase 4” negotiations?
- Unemployment Benefits: House Democrats’ HEROES Act would extend the enhanced federal unemployment benefit of $600 per week through January 31, 2021. Republicans’ HEALS Act would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits at up to $200 per week through September, and in October replace it with a payment of up to $500 that’s designed to replace 70% of lost wages when combined with state unemployment insurance. Currently, enhanced federal unemployment benefits total $600 per week through the end of the month, but the federal benefits have been criticized for paying some beneficiaries more in unemployment benefits than they received at their prior jobs & creating a disincentive to return to work.
- Liability Protections: Republicans’ HEALS Act would protect healthcare providers, schools, businesses, and non-profits from COVID-19 exposure lawsuits if they take good faith steps to comply with local health mandates. Democrats’ HEROES Act would implement no protections for people who tried to comply with local public health mandates from lawsuits alleging COVID-19 exposure.
- State & Local Funding: Democrats’ HEROES Act would provide $500 billion in fiscal relief to assist states, $375 billion to assist local governments, plus $30 billion for tribal & territorial governments that could be used to cover costs or replace foregone revenues stemming from the negative economic impacts of the pandemic. Republicans’ HEALS Act wouldn’t provide federal funding to fill holes in state budgets created by the pandemic.
- Coronavirus Relief Payments: Both Democrats’ HEROES Act & Republicans’ HEALS Act would authorize another “recovery rebate” payment of up to $1,200 per adult, but they differ in the payment amount for dependents ($500 under the HEALS Act, versus $1,200 under the HEROES Act).
What are some areas of agreement?
- Assistance for Schools: Republicans’ HEALS Act would establish a $105 billion Education Stabilization Fund to help states with early childhood education, elementary & secondary education, or higher education. Democrats’ HEROES Act would establish a $90 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants to support state & local funding for elementary & secondary schools & public postsecondary institutions.
What were the prior coronavirus relief bills?
- “Phase 1” was the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R 6074), which provided $8.3 billion to fund acquisition of medical supplies and develop treatments and vaccines. It passed the House on a 415-2 vote, the Senate on a 96-1 vote, and was signed into law on March 6, 2020.
- “Phase 2” was the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which ensured the availability of free coronavirus testing, in addition to providing for paid leave under certain circumstances, and expanding food aid & unemployment insurance benefits during the outbreak. It passed the House on a 363-40 vote, the Senate on a 90-8 vote, and was signed into law on March 18, 2020.
- “Phase 3” was the Coronavirus, Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), which provided an estimated $2.2 trillion in funding for a variety of initiatives aimed at blunting the economic impact of the pandemic & bolstering the healthcare response to it. It includes $1200 “recovery rebate” checks for individuals (doubled for married couples) that phase-out for wealthier Americans, plus $500 per child; enhanced unemployment benefits; $350 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); $500 billion in interest-bearing financial aid for larger, financially distressed corporations; and about $340 billion in financial help for hospitals & healthcare providers. The CARES Act, which passed the Senate 96-0 & the House on a voice vote before it was signed into law March 27, 2020, is the most expensive appropriations package ever enacted.
- “Phase 3.5” was the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), which provided $484 billion to replenish the PPP and other Small Business Administration disaster loan programs; reimburse healthcare providers; and scale up COVID-19 testing and tracing capacity. It passed the Senate by voice vote on April 21st, and the House on a vote of 388-5, 1 present on April 23rd before it was signed into law on April 24th.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Pelosi: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons | Mnuchin: White House via Flickr / Public Domain)
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