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Bullet policy · Dec 07, 2020

Update on Appropriations, COVID-19 Relief

House and Senate Appropriators have reached an agreement on top-line allocations for the twelve appropriations bills to divide the $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal year (FY) 2021, but disagreements remain over the exact provisions. Both chambers need to pass and the President needs to sign the spending package before the current stopgap measure expires to avert a government shutdown.

It is unclear if the funding bills will be finalized before the December 11 deadline. There has been some discussion about passing another continuing resolution funding the government for an additional week until December 18, to allow for more time to finalize the omnibus spending package. If negotiations collapse completely, lawmakers could enact a stopgap spending measure delaying funding decisions into the new congressional session. However, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are in agreement over avoiding that course.

After months of disagreement over the size of a COVID-19 relief package, congressional leaders and White House officials are moving quickly to reach a deal on the next stimulus before the end of the year. House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have expressed willingness to accept a smaller COVID-19 relief package, after insisting for months on passing a $2.2 trillion measure. Pelosi and Schumer have resumed relief negotiations with the White House and have shared a new proposal with McConnell, who in turn has pitched a separate, slimmer $500 billion proposal to GOP Senators. McConnell has indicated that the omnibus appropriations bill would be the likely vehicle for any COVID-19 stimulus package.

On December 1, a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers, including Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), and others, announced a $908 billion stimulus plan, which includes $160 billion for state and local governments, $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution, and liability protections for businesses. Romney indicated that parts of the bipartisan legislation could be added to a stopgap spending bill “but we’re continuing to negotiate an entire package that includes the full $908 billion that deals with state and local and liability coverage and extending the [Paycheck Protection Program].” Pelosi and Schumer called the bipartisan plan a good starting point for negotiations: “in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.” Senator McConnell has not expressed public support for the bipartisan proposal yet.