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Bullet policy · Feb 16, 2021

Work Begins on Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Lawmakers are now working to craft a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic relief package—the blueprint for which was adopted by both chambers of Congress on February 5, 2021 in the form of a budget resolution.

A budget resolution does not require the President’s signature and serves as a guide to the House and Senate on overall budget policy. Adopting a resolution prompts a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows legislation to be passed with a simple majority in the Senate, forgoing the 60 votes usually needed to advance a bill to final passage.

The budget resolution adopted by Congress allocated topline budget numbers to a number of congressional committees, which are now working on specific provisions for inclusion in the relief legislation. For example, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which has jurisdiction over much of the non-defense federal research portfolio, has been allocated up to $750 million. “$750 million represents just a fraction of what is needed, including to recover all the science and, more importantly, the talent that is hemorrhaging from the STEM pipeline as a result of this crisis,” said House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in response. “I will continue to push for such funding as part of the stimulus discussions.”

Other fiscal targets assigned in the resolution include: $188 billion for the Energy and Commerce Committee; $1 billion for the Natural Resources Committee; and $358 billion for the Education and Labor Committee.

Meanwhile, in the hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement, President Biden met with a group of Republican Senators to discuss a smaller $618 billion relief package, which does not include any state or local aid. Democratic lawmakers, however, are proceeding to use the budget reconciliation process to enact Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan without GOP support. Several committees have already advanced parts of the proposal, which are expected to be combined into a single package. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that the House is aiming to vote on a stimulus package during the week of February 22 and send the final bill to the President in March.