Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
This week, the Senate failed to get enough votes to proceed on a scaled-down $500 billion coronavirus relief package. This bill, put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), included $16B for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and mitigation to monitor COVID. It also included $300 in boosted federal weekly unemployment benefits through the end of December, another round of money for the small business Paycheck Protection Program, liability protections for schools, businesses, and health care providers, and $15 billion in grants for childcare and a two-year tax credit for donations to scholarships and grants.
You’ll remember that the House passed a $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief package, called the HEROS Act, in May. This bill provided $75 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for a national testing and contact tracing initiative to be implemented through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in coordination with State, local, Tribal, and territorial health departments, among many other more generous provisions.
Negotiations between the Democratic-lead House and the White House on additional coronavirus relief had stalled over the summer– House leadership had said they could support a smaller $2.2 trillion package, but that did not get Administration support. This week’s vote by the Senate was largely seen as a “last-ditch effort” by Congress to enact a relief package before Congress recesses for the Election.
Negotiations between Congress and the Administration have now turned to avoiding a government shutdown, since no funding bills have yet been passed by Congress and the fiscal year ends on September 30. It is widely believed that before that date, Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) between that date to keep the government open until later this year.