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Capitol Correspondence - 08.11.20

What’s Going on With Congress’ Next COVID-19 Relief Package?

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Despite challenges surrounding the negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans regarding the next COVID-19 relief package, our advocates should not despair. There is significant political pressure mounting from powerful groups such as state governors urging Congress to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. This means that while the timeline for legislation is currently delayed, there is reason to be hopeful that negotiations will resume. Please keep an eye out for future action alerts from ANCOR once we identify the right asks at the right times so we can be heard loudly and clearly in our calls to support Medicaid programs during the pandemic.

This article from Politico Pulse lays out some of the existing challenges:

“The president’s executive actions on Saturday may provide some relief to Americans suffering from coronavirus-related economic fallout. The move may also be illegal and throw a new wrench into the months-long negotiation over another coronavirus stimulus package.

— What Trump announced: Unilateral actions that he said would cut taxes for workers through the end of the year; extend unemployment benefits but at a reduced rate compared to earlier aid; renew a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic; and defer student loan payments and interest until the end of the year. More from POLITICO’s Evan Semones and Caitlin Oprysko.

— Still missing: Aid to cities and states, small business assistance and billions of dollars for schools just weeks before many are trying to reopen.

There also are real questions about whether the president can go around Congress, with GOP Senator Ben Sasse calling it ‘unconstitutional slop.’

— Democrats decried Trump’s actions as insufficient and unworkable, including the unemployment benefit. ‘It doesn’t do the job, it’s not going to go into effect in most places for weeks or months, because it’s so put together in a crazy way,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. ‘If [Trump] just would have renewed the $600, as we do in the HEROES bill, through January, things would flow smoothly,’ he added, alluding to the Democrats’ sprawling relief package passed in May.

— Looking ahead: Will there be a deal anytime soon? Trump’s actions may have effectively punted the messy negotiations between Democrats, the White House and Senate Republicans to later in the calendar year.

‘I’m not sure how Humpty Dumpty gets put back together again,’ said Rodney Whitlock, a former GOP Senate staffer and now with McDermottPlus. ‘How do they get back in the room and say, okay, let’s restart this thing?’

‘There is more COVID money coming, but probably not until September,’ James Lucier of Capital Alpha Partners told clients in an analyst note on Sunday, predicting ‘only a 20% chance that Congress and the White House could reach a deal in the next few days and pass a bill before the virtual Democratic National Convention begins on August 17.’