Inching closer to a deal to avoid a government shutdown, Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced what’s known as a continuing resolution, or CR agreement, to provide funding beyond Sept. 30 for federal programs and vital services.
House Democrats intend to pass this legislation as quickly as possible to allow the Senate enough time to pass it before funding runs out at the end of the month.
The measure was supposed to be presented Friday, but was met with strong resistance from the White House for its lack of agricultural funding. Farm payments, over which Trump essentially has control, have been dispersed through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which has a borrowing limit of $30 billion.
Pelosi wavered on this provision Friday, making and then reversing a decision to include the aid to farmers that Trump is seeking. As it currently stands, the bill does not contain any provisions for farm bailouts.
The continuing resolution bill stems from a call between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Pelosi on Sept. 1, shortly after Mnuchin’s testimony before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. During the 26-minute conversation, the two agreed to maintain current funding levels to avert a shutdown but were unable to find common ground on a budget for the next coronavirus relief package.
But the willingness of both parties working to stave off a government shutdown also signals an ability to separate government funding from coronavirus relief discussions.
Could An Agreement Be Reached Next On A Stimulus Bill?
The ability to find consensus on a continuing resolution may be good news for Americans anxiously awaiting a second stimulus check.
With the passing on Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there has already been heated debate about how quickly to nominate a replacement for the empty seat. Trump has said he wants to announce his nomination in a few days, while Democratic presidential nominee Joseph Biden is urging Republican senators to wait until after the election. The focus by lawmakers on how and when to fill the spot for the next Supreme Court justice may further derail any further progress on a stimulus relief bill.
Democrats and Republicans have remained in a bitter standoff over a second stimulus bill for months, although the progress on a stopgap government funding bill indicates that the two parties can find mutual ground. However, every day that passes without a bill has real life consequences for struggling Americans.
“More people each day are teetering on this edge between stability and instability,” says Elaine Maag, a principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington D.C.
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters at a press briefing today, “We are in a self-sustaining, strong V-shaped recovery,” but other economic experts see more of a K-shaped rebound, with those who maintained employment seeing continued good financial fortune and those reliant on unemployment and/or stimulus checks struggling with essential needs.
Both Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed support for programs including a second draw of PPP funding, additional unemployment benefits, money for schools to invest in PPE, and postal service funding, but their inability to finalize a package is rooted in the amount of funding they seek.
Democrats, led by Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, are firmly advocating for their version of a second stimulus package known as the HEROES Act, which would include a second round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and a continuation of the $600 weekly unemployment insurance supplement through January 2021.
Senate Republicans are pushing for a $200 weekly unemployment supplement and to limit direct stimulus payments to those earning $75,000 a year or less. But although they’ve appeared to soften their stance on the total price tag, the two sides have yet to find a number they can agree on.