Congress has left town without passing another pandemic aid bill.
Negotiations between the White House and Democrats are ongoing, but the prospect of more coronavirus aid is uncertain during a “lame duck session.”
The next deadline Congress faces is December 11, the date by which it must approve another spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.
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Congress has left town without approving another coronavirus aid bill as virus cases surge across the nation and the economic recovery threatens to stall out.
The prospect for a coronavirus aid bill before the election all but dissipated when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate after it voted along party lines to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The chamber will not reconvene until November 9.
“We’ll come back in November,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby of Alabama told The Washington Post. “The question might be, will there be something then?”
Stimulus negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Steven Mnuchin are crawling along with very few signs of progress. Both sides are negotiating a roughly $2 trillion package that includes $1,200 stimulus checks, federal unemployment benefits, as well as small business aid.
The odds of congressional action in a “lame-duck” session is highly uncertain, given the election results may reshuffle priorities among Democrats and Republicans.
“The lame-duck agenda depends largely on the outcome of the election,” Sen. Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told Bloomberg Tax. “If my choice wins — Vice President Biden — it’s hard to see Mitch McConnell supporting another penny of stimulus.”
The next deadline Congress faces is December 11, the date it must approve another spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. It may be another window of opportunity for lawmakers to pass additional coronavirus relief legislation.
President Donald Trump strongly supports another stimulus package. But his approach was highly unpredictable over the past month. He has veered from cutting off relief negotiations to pressing for more money than Democrats.
“After the election we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen,” Trump said Tuesday at a Pennsylvania rally.
Congress hasn’t authorized additional federal aid since the pandemic sparked a $3 trillion surge of emergency spending in the spring. Programs for small business aid and federal unemployment benefits expired several months ago, and Americans have largely spent their initial $1,200 stimulus checks.
Republicans largely oppose passing another large pandemic relief bill, citing the growing budget deficit. They argue Democrats haven’t been flexible in the negotiations. Democrats blocked a $500 billion pandemic aid bill that the GOP put forward last week.
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“We have been working on coronavirus relief,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Monday. “Unfortunately, the Speaker has not been able to agree to anything remotely reasonable. We can do two things at once and we were trying to do two things at once.”
New daily coronavirus cases rose 17% over the past week and most states are grappling with a surge of infections. Many economists say another aid bill is needed to strengthen the economy as layoffs rise and unemployment claims remain high.
On Tuesday, Pelosi slammed the Trump administration for not budging on a national testing and tracing strategy Democrats want in a letter to House Democrats.
During an MSNBC interview, she said the White House hadn’t yielded on its refusal to include tax credits for low-income individuals and families, another Democratic priority in a $2.2 trillion economic aid package the House passed earlier this month.
“We have to control the virus. But in addition to that, we cannot sell our souls,” Pelosi said. “I know, just say, ‘Okay, well, let’s just do it, whatever way they want to do it. We’ll do it again.’ No.”
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