WASHINGTON — The House returns to Washington this week, joining the Senate for a September legislative sprint in which the only law enacted before the election might be a stopgap bill to fund the government.
Floor action on that is not expected until next week, however. This week, the Senate is back to considering judicial nominations, and the House is taking up a handful of bills designed to mitigate discrimination and inequalities in schools and the workplace.
With bipartisan COVID-19 relief negotiations on ice, congressional leaders have turned their attention to crafting a continuing resolution to keep the government open before the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Leaders have yet to decide how long a stopgap measure should last and what so-called anomalies to allow on a bill they’re striving to keep “clean,” or free of partisan riders.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he favors a continuing resolution that punts the funding deadline into December, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer have yet to express Democrats’ preference for the continuing resolution’s expiration date.
Pelosi did, however, make clear last week that additional COVID-19 aid will not be attached to a resolution.
“There are some what we call anomalies — some things have expired, this or that — that may or may not be continued but still are technically within the definition of clean, ‘clean’ meaning no additional things,” the California Democrat said. “COVID would not meet that definition. And those negotiations are separate from this.”
But discussions over how to break a months-long stalemate over the amount of additional aid lawmakers are willing to provide have largely stopped, fueling speculation that there won’t be a deal before the November election.
The House passed a $3.4 trillion aid package in May, and Democrats have said they’d be willing to drop the price to $2.2 trillion by moving up expiration dates. White House negotiators have expressed openness to going as high as $1.5 trillion, but Senate Republicans don’t want to spend that much. The consensus position of the Senate GOP conference was the $300 billion (after offsets) measure it put on the floor last week, which was blocked by Democrats.
Pelosi has said Senate Republicans and the White House need to negotiate a unified position among themselves before bipartisan talks with Democrats can move forward. But even if the GOP settled on an amount between $300 billion and $1.5 trillion, it would still fall short of the $2.2 trillion Pelosi has said Democrats need to return to the table.
“I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package, but it doesn’t look that good right now,” McConnell said Friday at a constituent event in Kentucky.
After the GOP’s “skinny” coronavirus relief bill did not advance last week, McConnell quickly filed cloture on eight judicial nominations. The procedural action tees up votes this week on U.S. district judge nominees for courts in California and Illinois.
The House, meanwhile, is taking up a handful of bills designed to reduce discrimination and inequalities.