Delays Continue for COVID-19 Relief
Efforts to provide a new round of COVID-19 relief legislation have been stalled for the past several weeks. Lawmakers have largely left Washington, D.C. for their annual August recess and are not expected to return until mid-September barring a breakthrough in pandemic negotiations. In this context, Congressional leaders from both parties, along with the White House, continue to be at odds over the size and content of a future legislative package to provide pandemic relief. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke by phone to discuss potentially restarting these negotiations more formally. According to reports, this call was not productive.
The White House, and some in Congress, favor a piecemeal approach which would prioritize smaller pieces of legislation where agreement already exists—such as on extending unemployment assistance—but House Democrats have mostly remained firm in their commitment to a comprehensive package addressing a slew of issues created by the pandemic. While additional emergency K-12 education funding is one area where agreement appears to exist, discussions are still fluid regarding the potential conditionality of this funding. As this delay continues, the 2021 federal fiscal year is fast approaching (October 1, 2020). This deadline has the potential to re-focus stalled efforts to negotiate a new COVID-19 relief package by forcing lawmakers to combine this must-pass legislation with a forthcoming relief package. If no deal is reached, it is likely a continuing resolution would be introduced to prevent the government from shutting down prior to the election.