The House and Senate are both in recess this week and are not set to return to Washington until at least Monday, May 4. The House will hold brief, pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday, while the Senate will hold them on Monday and Thursday-no formal legislative business is expected on any of these days, although Members of Congress are allowed to introduce and/or cosponsor legislation on days when pro forma sessions are held.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated on several occasions that they have already begun work on the fifth COVID-19 relief package. Direct flexible funding for states and all local governments, to be utilized, in part, for lost revenue, remains a top priority for inclusion in the next package being drafted by House and Senate Democrats, and will likely total several hundred billion dollars. While President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have indicated that they are open to including additional aid for states and localities in the next package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
last Tuesday that he supports letting states declare bankruptcy as they face mounting budget constraints sparked by the coronavirus and that there needed to be a "broad discussion" within the Senate Republican Conference regarding state and local funding. McConnell also called for lawmakers to "pause" while they evaluate the effectiveness of the nearly $2.8 trillion already appropriated by Congress in the four COVID-19 bills enacted over the past two months and the impact the spending will have on the debt.
The next COVID-19 relief package Congress considers in the coming weeks will very likely include significant financial assistance for individuals, small businesses, hospitals, community health centers, health workers, first responders, and other industries which are struggling amid the pandemic. Other items on Democrats' wish list are an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, funding for housing programs, election security funding to states, a "heroes fund" for frontline workers and first responders, and a postal service rescue. Infrastructure, including boosting 5G cellular technology and broadband access, could also make it into the package, though lawmakers have never agreed with President Trump on how to pay for it. The Trump Administration is also reportedly interested in including a payroll tax cut for workers and manufacturing, tax, and trade policy changes to allow the U.S. to begin inching away from China.
Speaker Pelosi, in a
Dear Colleague letter
sent to House Democrats on Friday, said that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Rules and Administration Committees will "confer this week about remote voting and also how committees will function." Leader Hoyer also indicated last week that he hoped to move forward with remote committee work in the coming weeks to allow for the passage of the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and the FY 2021 Appropriations bills by the House Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, respectively. Proxy voting, or any other remote voting alternative, he said, would be a heavier lift.
Speaker Pelosi this week also plans to announce the six House Democrats, in addition to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as Chairman, who will be appointed to the newly created House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which will conduct oversight on how federal resources are being used to mitigate harm to the individuals, communities, small businesses, health care providers, states, local governments, and other entities for which the COVID-19 funds are intended. Leader McCarthy will appoint five of the 12 members of the Select Subcommittee.
NATaT has created a Coronavirus Guidance webpage to store NATaT letters, memos and briefs on the outbreak, as well as critical information and guidance released by Congress and the Administration.