The Senate is in session this week, while the House is holding "Committee Work Days" but will return to Washington next week. In addition to voting on five federal district judge nominations, the Senate will hold a procedural vote, on Thursday, on the Senate Republicans' new "skinny" coronavirus relief package, the $500 billion Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act (substitute amendment to S. 178; summary available here). To reduce the net cost, the proposal would cancel $204 billion out of $500 billion appropriated to the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department within the CARES Act for loans to businesses, states, and municipalities. Additional unused lending authority would be "clawed back" beginning next year.
The legislation provides $300 in increased weekly federal unemployment benefits through December 27, 2020; additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and liability protections for schools, businesses, non-profits, religious institutions, and local government agencies. The bill also includes a two-year tax credit for donations to scholarships, grants and other organizations; $105 billion through an Education Stabilization Fund; $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance in states; $31 billion for vaccine development and distribution; $15 billion for child care grants; $20 billion in farm assistance; $500 million for fisheries; $10 billion to the U.S. Postal Service (by converting a CARES Act loan into a grant); and an extension of the deadline for localities and states to spend already appropriated Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) money from Dec. 30, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021-no additional flexibility or funding for the CRF is provided in the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his Democratic colleagues remain opposed to the Senate Republicans' proposal. Leader Schumer said in a September 3 letter to the 47-member Senate Democratic Caucus that a "skinny" bill would fall short of the sweeping legislation they believe is necessary to confront the health and economic fallout from the virus. Senate Democrats have joined with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in calling for at least $2 trillion in new spending, and Senate Democrats will block further action when the Republican proposal comes up for a vote later this week. It is very unlikely that the legislation will receive the 60 votes needed to advance and overcome a filibuster from Senate Democrats.
Voters in New Hampshire and Rhode Island head to the polls on Tuesday to participate in congressional primary elections.