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Capitol Hill Update: October 19, 2020

10/19/2020

Schedule:

The Senate is in session this week. The House isn’t expected to be back in session until Monday, November 16.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 4:30 pm. The nomination of Michael Jay Newman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio was originally the first order of business when the Senate came back. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that “[w]hen the full Senate returns on October 19, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the [Paycheck Protection Program].” You may remember that the Senate tried to take action on a COVID-19 relief bill on September 10. The vehicle for that COVID-19 relief was S. 178. McConnell filed an amendment to substitute the text of S. 178 with the text of the Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act. Every Democrat voted against the cloture motion, denying the 60 votes needed to advance the bill. We aren’t sure of the legislative vehicle, whether it’s S. 178 or another bill. A vote on the new package is expected on Wednesday.

According to McConnell’s office, the roughly $500 billion package will include money for enhanced unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program, $100 billion for schools, more money for testing and contact tracing, more money for investment in a vaccine, and money for the distribution of the vaccine.

The White House has said that President Trump is willing to go higher than the $1.8 trillion package that was offered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) by Secretary Steven Mnuchin. This comes after McConnell threw cold water on the White House’s offer. Mnuchin said on Thursday that Trump would pressure McConnell to support a deal if an agreement was reached with Pelosi. There has been some progress in negotiations. In a letter to her caucus, Pelosi wrote that the White House had agreed to a national testing strategy.

However, Pelosi added, “[E]ven if this key priority is resolved, many other disagreements remain. These include but are not limited to funding for state and local government, tax benefits for working families, support for vulnerable small businesses and child care funding. In addition to these deficiencies, the Trump proposal contains multiple deadly poison pills – including their radical Liability Provision which forces workers to risk their lives in unsafe workplaces with no legal recourse.” On Sunday, Pelosi gave the White House 48 hours to reach a deal on another COVID-19 relief package. Even some progress has been made, keep in mind that the reason McConnell brought a $500 billion package to the floor was because a larger $1 trillion bill didn’t have enough support in the Senate Republican Conference.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will markup Barrett’s nomination on Thursday at 9:00 am. As of now, we expect Barrett’s nomination to be approved with a favorable recommendation and referred to the full Senate for consideration. McConnell isn’t wasting time. We expect Barrett’s nomination to come to the floor on Friday, although a confirmation vote will be pushed into next week. There are still procedural hurdles to clear. McConnell will file the cloture motion on the motion to proceed (MTP). Thirty hours will have to pass, unless there’s a consent agreement to limit the time (not likely), before the vote on the MTP can happen. After the MTP, there will be debate on the nomination, followed by cloture on the nomination. Another 30 hours will pass, unless there’s a consent agreement to limit the time (again, not likely), before a vote on Barrett’s confirmation. It certainly seems as though the 51 votes needed for confirmation are there.

The full Senate committee schedule for the week is here.

House:

The House isn’t expected to be back in session until Monday, November 16. That could change if an agreement is reached on another COVID-19 relief package.