I wanted to give you a brief update before the holiday on what we know right now about the current state of play between the President and Congress. For background, H.R. 133 “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 [Including Coronavirus Stimulus & Relief],” passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, December 21, 2020 in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 358 to 53 with 230 Democrats and 128 Republicans voting for it and 17 members who did not vote. The U.S. Senate then approved the bill 92 to 6. While that vote was also bipartisan, the six Senators who voted against it were all Republicans.
As I am sure you have been hearing through the news, the overall $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations and $900 billion COVID-19 emergency relief legislation is now in question after the President’s video remarks last night calling on Congress to amend it to provide $2000 in stimulus checks for qualified individuals and $4000 for couples. The current legislation has a $600 stimulus amount. This number was highly debated as Congressional leaders negotiated the measure and came to this compromise amount in the final legislation. The legislation contains the budget for the 2021 Department of Education and $54 billion for pubic schools related to the pandemic.
The President also expressed concern over several other items in the legislation, including foreign aid, that are unrelated to the pandemic. It should be noted that those items are in the legislation since they are part of a broader package that consolidates twelve appropriations for the 2021 budget, such as foreign aid, which is typically contained in the omnibus each year, along with with the pandemic relief funding. Reportedly, the White House agreed several weeks ago to include both pieces of legislation in one bill so it should not have been unexpected foreign aid was in the final legislation upon passage.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, all indications by the White House and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin were that the President would sign the legislation when it arrived at his desk. However, his latest statements have thrown doubt on whether that will happen. It should be noted the President did not indicate he would veto the bill, but he did veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) earlier this afternoon which also passed by an overwhelming margin. Upon release of the video, both House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have stated they support increasing stimulus checks. The House is planning to take up that specific issue this week concerning the $2000 stimulus and seek to pass it through unanimous consent. Under that rule, when brought up and no one objects the measure would pass the House, but if only one member objects on the House floor, the measure would have to go through normal procedures. It is unclear if the measure did clear the House whether it would pass the Senate, even if it were brought up for passage by Senate leadership which is also questionable. There was considerable resistance to individual stimulus payments in the Senate which is what led to the compromise figure.
If the President vetoes the legislation and the numbers voting to overturn it hold up in the same manner as final passage, the veto would easily be overturned in both houses and made federal law. However, if the President puts pressure on Republicans in Congress there could be enough defections to prevent the required 2/3 votes necessary to overturn a veto.
The President has until December 28 at midnight, when the current Continuing Resolution expires, to sign the legislation to keep the government open. We will continue to monitor this situation and report any major developments. If you have any individual questions, please let me know. If the legislation becomes law, we will also have additional updates on specific items in it relevant to education and the state associations.