That Friday timeline is not guaranteed, quite frankly, but this is indeed a make-or-break week for Congress. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agree that they don’t want to shut down the government and that additional pandemic relief should be included in a package, but there are still a number of policy differences standing in the way — and they are the same policy differences that have stopped efforts to reach a compromise in the past.
Typically, Congress works best on a deadline, but lawmakers have blown past quite a few this year. If the combination of legislative compromise, the rise in coronavirus cases and a desire to adjourn this Congress and go home works some magic by Friday, we could see a Christmas tree omnibus package that funds the entire government, doles out billions of dollars in pandemic relief and includes additional priorities like surprise billing legislation.
Or we could also see another one-week stopgap bill and another round of negotiations.
In your most recent dispatch with Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos, you wrote that millions of Americans have been relying on specific relief programs passed by Congress this year, some of which are set to expire next week, and others of which already have. What programs are on the chopping block this month and what have they done, in a nutshell, for working people?
The day after Christmas will be the last day an estimated 12 million workers could lose additional jobless benefits because two federal programs that expand and extend the unemployment insurance system — allowing gig workers to receive state unemployment and an extension of unemployment eligibility — are set to expire.
Even more programs will expire on Dec. 31 without action from Congress or the administration, including a federal mandate requiring employers to offer family leave and paid sick time during the pandemic, nutrition waivers and a moratorium on evictions. State and local governments will also have to return any unspent money left over from the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March.
If some form of stimulus does pass, will another stimulus check to Americans be included?
Unclear! There’s been an interesting alliance between Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Josh Hawley of Missouri to try to get approval for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks in whatever package there is. The White House appears on board with at least $600 — that was in a proposal that Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, offered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi this past week — and Hawley has personally spoken to the White House about this.
It hasn’t quite been a part of these bipartisan talks around a $908 billion framework, largely because it would drive up the overall price tag. But there are procedural ways for Sanders and Hawley to hold up passage of a final spending package should it not be included. They ultimately allowed the one-week stopgap bill to pass on Friday, but Sanders in particular indicated he would not relent as easily this week.