Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of March 23, 2020  
  
Congressional Outlook

The Senate is in session this week, while the House is in recess until the Senate passes the third coronavirus-related stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Senate substitute amendment to H.R. 748), which includes $186 billion in emergency supplemental federal funding to state and local governments, among numerous other provisions related to direct financial assistance for individuals, small businesses, hospitals and health care centers, and larger corporate entities.  
 
The Senate was unable to reach the 60-vote threshold on Sunday to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the roughly $1.8 trillion shell legislation intended for the package, in a 47-47 vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for opposing the Republican offer and halting progress. Some Senate Democrats had been involved in bipartisan negotiations, though they had not explicitly agreed to a deal. The Senate rejected the motion to proceed to the legislation a second time on Monday, this time by a vote of 49-46, with nearly all Senate Democrats voting against the motion.
 
A draft version of the bill released on Sunday by Senate Republicans would increase unemployment insurance by about $600 per person per week, a key concession to Democrats. However, Leader Schumer said there were not enough restrictions on a measure that would provide $500 billion for loan agreements and other means of injecting money into the economy at the discretion of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The bill also includes $75 billion in direct funding for hospitals and health care centers, according to an outline of the proposal, a sum Democratic leadership says is not enough. Leader Schumer has continued to meet several times throughout yesterday and today with Leader McConnell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who has been conducting what amounted to shuttle diplomacy between the two sides. As of 6pm ET on Monday, March 23, a compromise agreement in the Senate had still not been reached, nor the timing for another cloture vote on the CARES Act announced.
 
Additionally, Speaker Pelosi said on Sunday that House Democrats would "be introducing [their] own bill and hopefully it will be compatible with what they discuss on the Senate side." On Monday afternoon, House Democrats released their $2.5 trillion coronavirus-related stimulus plan, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act. Notably, the draft of the House bill (summary available here) includes a section eliminating language in the second enacted coronavirus-related bill (P.L. 116-127), which excludes local governments and public entities from receiving the tax credits for the emergency paid sick and family leave programs. The legislation also includes direct individual/family financial payments; a temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund; expansions of paid and family medical leave; more than $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans to small businesses; $200 billion in funding for states to combat the coronavirus; $15 billion to local governments through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program; and $4 billion in grant funding to states, with a national requirement for both 15 days of early voting and absentee vote-by-mail, among many other policies.
 
The Ferguson Group (TFG) has created a Coronavirus Update Library on our website to store TFG memos and briefs on the outbreak, as well as critical information and guidance released by Congress and the Administration.TFG has also created an Economic Stimulus Survey that identifies many of the federal programs that benefit local governments and public entities which may be included in the third or future coronavirus-related stimulus package(s); responses from local government and public entity staff will be helpful in providing input to Congressional staff as they potentially move forward on this legislation.
Week in Review