“July 24, 2020 Washington Update: Key Dates and Deadlines, COVID Package, and Appropriations”
Next COVID-19 Package
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Republican colleagues continue to discuss appropriate response policies and their strategy before unveiling legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations. Leader McConnell is trying to keep the cost of this next COVID relief package as close to $1 trillion as possible. Discussions amongst Republicans are still occurring so the total cost of the initial Senate Republican proposal is still evolving. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continues to push for a much larger $4 trillion bill. We expect the final price tag to fall between the bookends.
Following discussions with the administration, there is growing consensus to propose extending enhanced unemployment benefits, additional direct payments to the public, funding for schools, liability protections, business reimbursement for personal protective equipment, enhanced employee retention tax credit, a targeted second round of the Paycheck Protection Program, funding for COVID-19 testing as well for health care providers, and several other economic stimulus measures.
Republican senators who will be integrally involved include Senators Shelby (AL), Alexander (TN), Blunt (MO), Cornyn (TX), Rubio (FL), Grassley (IA), Wicker (MS), Thune (SD), and Crapo (ID). Senators declaring opposition to advancing COVID legislation will have substantially less, if any, influence in changing the bill.
The fulcrum of the debate will likely turn on liability protection, enhanced unemployment benefits, and state and local funding assistance. Democrats, while open to the idea of liability protection, could still fight to limit its scope, while Republicans are expected to oppose unemployment benefits that discourage recipients from returning to work. It’s worth noting that the US Department of Justice provided technical drafting assistance to, and legal/Constitutional guidance on the liability provisions. Enhanced unemployment benefits continue to be a redline issue for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Schumer while many Republicans view the benefits as a deterrence to having workers return to work.
Attorney General Bill Barr and his team have been, and will continue to be, involved in liability negotiations. McConnell’s ability to defend liability protection stands in direct proportion to rank-and-file Republican support for the overall package; that is, the more conference support McConnell gets, the greater his leverage to keep a robust liability section in the final bill. Of course, don’t forget the obverse: His trouble delivering “yes” votes will weaken his ability to protect the liability shield. We anticipate Schumer and Pelosi will oppose, and attempt to weaken, liability language, while fighting for higher funding levels, principally for states and localities.
Leader McConnell has also been working closely and coordinating with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). House Republicans remain laser-focused on COVID issues relating to China (note: House leadership convened various China task forces last month), and proposals in this vein may be broached in future talks.
2020: Key Dates and Deadlines
The following is a comprehensive list of important dates and deadlines that will drive congressional and presidential actions for the remainder of the year.
|July 25, 2020||Expiration: CARES Act: suspension of eviction for federally backed properties|
|July 31, 2020||Expiration: CARES Act: $600-per-week federal pandemic unemployment benefits|
|Aug 8, 2020||Application deadline: CARES Act: Paycheck Protection Program borrowers|
|Week of Aug 17, 2020||Democratic National Convention|
|Week of Aug 24, 2020||Republican National Convention|
|Aug 31, 2020||Expiration: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s single-family moratorium on foreclosures and evictions|
|Sept 29, 2020||First presidential debate|
|Sept 30, 2020||Expiration: federal government fiscal year funding
Expiration: National Flood Insurance Program
Expiration: Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act
Expiration: CARES Act: student loan repayment and interest accrual suspension
|Oct 7, 2020||Vice presidential debate|
|Oct 15, 2020||Second presidential debate|
|Oct 22, 2020||Third presidential debate|
|Nov 3, 2020||Election day|
|Nov 30, 2020||Expiration: various health care extenders|
|Dec 31, 2020||Expiration: CARES Act: Treasury/Fed business, state and local government loan authority
Expiration: CARES Act: various temporary tax breaks
Expiration: CARES Act: emergency sick and family leave programs
Expiration: CARES Act: pandemic unemployment assistance
Expiration: CARES Act: Medicare sequestration suspension
Expiration: CARES Act: changes to banking and accounting rules
Expiration: partial tax extenders
Expiration: General System of Preferences (GSP)
Next week, the House will take up its second minibus appropriations package, which includes the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science; Energy and Water; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services Education; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development spending bills. The House Rules Committee amendment filing deadline is 4:30 pm today. After next week, the House will have passed all spending measures except for that covering Legislative Branch appropriations.
At this time, we still do not anticipate Senate appropriators reaching any agreement to consider any standalone appropriations legislation. Therefore, come September, we expect a short-term continuing resolution for all 12 appropriations bills, likely extending past Election Day, possibly into early December.