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October 19, 2020

House Speaker Sets Deadline For COVID Relief Bill Negotiations

There is still no agreement over a next round of COVID-19 relief funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continued to negotiate last week and over the weekend in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion proposal and the Trump administration’s $1.8 trillion counteroffer.

On October 14, President Donald Trump said he’d support a virus relief package that is larger than the $1.8 trillion plan his administration has offered, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected that idea and said Republicans in his chamber would not support it. Sen. McConnell again called for passage of an aid package of no more than $500 billion.

In an interview on television on Sunday morning, Speaker Pelosi said a deal must come together in the next 48 hours in order to get it done before the election. Speak Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly spoke for an hour and 15 minutes on Saturday night and are scheduled to speak again early this week.

In the meantime, Senate Leader McConnell announced that when the Senate returns this week, it will vote on legislation that includes new funding for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program, testing, hospitals, and protections for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

If a deal doesn’t come together in the next few weeks, it is unlikely another aid package will get done before the current 116th Congress ends in early January. Although some lawmakers believe something could get done in the lame-duck session along with a government funding package, the more likely scenario is that additional coronavirus aid gets pushed off until the 117th Congress. Democrats believe they can get a better deal in January or February if former Vice President Joe Biden beats President Trump.

The House is not scheduled to be back in session until after the November election, but House Majority Leader Hoyer has advised his members that they may still be called back this month if a deal comes together at the last minute.