Congress faces stimulus and government funding deadlines in December

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It’s almost the end of the year and Congress is once again setting several major deadlines.

First, the increasingly severe pandemic means there is tremendous pressure to pass more coronavirus relief before December 31, when several aid programs – including unemployment insurance coverage for 12 million people – are about to expire.

Second, the deadline to approve an annual government funding plan is fast approaching December 11, with lawmakers due to pass another week-long extension.

And finally, Congress has yet to pass the National Defense Authorization Act – which sets an annual budget for the military – a move that has been complicated by threats from President Donald Trump to veto it against the military. frustrations of lawmakers on a separate issue.

All three bills are key priorities during the lame tenure, as failure to pass them would leave millions of people in dire financial straits, force the government to close its doors and cause potential delays in ministry planning. Defense for the coming year. But it’s unclear how much lawmakers will be able to make in the roughly two weeks that the legislature will be in session before the end of the year.

The future of a stimulus bill is perhaps most uncertain, although there are still outstanding disputes over government funding and the NDAA as well. Developments over the coming week and the receptiveness of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to a bipartisan stimulus proposal will be key to watch with regards to prospects for further relief.

“We have a lot of work to do. And just a few days to do it,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted last weekend during an appearance on ABC This week.

Here’s a look at Congress’s list of things to do before lawmakers leave for the year.

There is a huge pressure to pass more stimulus

There is a lot of pressure on lawmakers to get more stimulus during the lame duck session, something that has only increased since the release of sluggish employment figures in November, which posted much slower employment growth than the previous month. In addition, a new bill is absolutely necessary to expand relief programs that would otherwise be will expire on December 31.

Several programs could disappear if no new stimulus package is adopted: Unemployment Insurance (UI) coverage for millions of Americans is expected to end before January 2021, unless further legislative action is taken. Federal eviction protections must expire unless Congress or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approves an extension. And relief for student loan holders may soon be in jeopardy as well.

These provisions were all put in place earlier this year with specific end dates: programs that increase access to unemployment insurance for workers in the odd-job economy and the long-term unemployed should all be two end by Dec. 31, which could mean about 12 million people will abruptly stop receiving benefits. User interface.

A moratorium on evictions covering tenants in federally assisted housing was also included in the CARES Act, a previous stimulus package passed by Congress in March, though it lapsed earlier this year. Since then, the CDC has put in place a moratorium on evictions that covers a wide range of tenants until December 31.

An extension is needed to maintain it and potentially prevent millions of evictions in the New Year. As Vox’s Jerusalem Demsas reported, the need for rent support in any stimulus package is also critical to addressing the financial deficits that tenants and landlords face. This type of assistance is also currently taken into account in a bipartite proposal.

The CARES Act also postponed federal student loan payments until September, a proposal Trump extended until December 31 in executive action. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has since extended that one month delay until Jan.31, 2021, and she pushed Congress to approve a longer one.

New stimulus measures are essential both to maintain these existing programs and to provide additional support to small businesses and households trying to cope with the financial effects of the pandemic. A $ 908 billion bipartisan Senate proposal that gained traction would allocate $ 180 billion to expand weekly unemployment insurance payments, $ 160 billion to state and local governments to cover funding for social service programs , including K-12 education, and $ 288 billion in additional assistance for small businesses.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of the senators involved in the bipartisan proposal, said on Sunday appearance on NBC Meet the press this “We looked at everything that was going to be over by the end of December” and tried to find ways to extend the sunset programs.

Lawmakers are still mulling over the final language, but if Republican and Democratic leaders join in, this stimulus proposal could be added to a government funding package that Congress must also implement this month.

Congress must pass funding to keep government open

Passing a government finance bill comes down pretty much every year – and it was no different in 2020.

Lawmakers approved a continuing resolution last September to give themselves more time to negotiate on the measure, and that extension will expire on December 11.

At this point, it is likely that Congress will approve another short-term funding bill that will provide federal agencies with enough funds to allow lawmakers to continue negotiations until Dec. 18, according to two Democratic advisers. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the lower house would vote on the continuing resolution on Wednesday.

Lawmakers on both sides have already signaled that they are working to avoid another government shutdown like the one which left hundreds of thousands of workers without pay for 35 days in late 2018 and early 2019, although there are still disagreements outstanding on a few different points. According to USA Today, one of the main points of contention concerns a Republican demand for money for a border wall and detention beds for immigration and customs.

It will be important to resolve these issues by December 18 to ensure the government remains open and negotiations are completed before a new term in Congress begins.

Trump’s issues with NDAA could complicate his passage

Another bill lawmakers are trying to pass before the end of this year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

While the bill – which sets the funding allocations for the Defense Department – enjoys strong support in both the House and the Senate, the main setback it is experiencing at this point is brought on by Trump. , who threatened to veto it because it does not include repeal. Section 230 protections for technology companies. This provision currently protects social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google from liability for content posted on their sites by third parties.

Senate Armed Forces Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said a repeal of Section 230 would not be included in the bill due to bipartisan opposition it faces and the likelihood that the bill will fail if added.

“It is unfortunate that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle do not agree with the need for a complete repeal – but, because of this, it is impossible to add a repeal to the section. 230 to the draft law on the authorization of defense ” Inhofe previously said in a statement.

Trump had also said he would veto the bill over an issue he and some Republican lawmakers had with the legislation, an issue lawmakers have now resolved. House Democrats were pushing for a provision in the NDAA that would rename military bases after Confederate leaders within a year. A new compromise version of the bill would now establish a commission that would determine how to handle the renaming of those bases over three years, which Trump also argues, according to Inhofe.

The House has already scheduled a vote on the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is also expected to hold a vote later this week.

The main question now is whether Trump will veto the Section 230 issue and, if he does, how Congress will respond. So far, Congress has yet to muster enough votes to override one of Trump’s vetoes, although some Republicans have voted to override other laws in the past.

But even if they do manage to do so now, overcoming this potential difficulty would be just one of the many challenges Congress faces before its term ends in December.

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