Aindriu Colgan | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol after Labor Day. They will have 11 legislative days before the government shuts down on September 30 with zero expectation of both chambers passing the required twelve annual appropriations bills before then. On top of that, negotiators are no closer to agreeing on further coronavirus relief despite protestations from both parties about their desire to negotiate. Senate Republicans are preparing to vote on a “targeted” relief package next week to bolster their position against House Democrats, but so far they have been unable to reach 51 votes on any relief proposals. Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains adamant that Republicans do not understand the severity of the crisis or else they would agree to compromise up to $2.2 trillion as she has done—down from more than $3 trillion.
Most likely, lawmakers will agree on a continuing resolution or stopgap funding bill to get the federal government through the election, as no one is clamoring for a government shutdown a month before the presidential election. What is unclear is whether that continuing resolution will also include pandemic relief. If it does not, there will still be an opportunity for further relief after the election during the lame duck Congress or with the new Congress in 2021. Some of the remaining issues to be addressed—in addition to the overall amount of relief—include the now-expired supplemental unemployment insurance payments, liability protections, further direct payments, and an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As we have noted previously, we can expect progressive lawmakers to try to block fossil fuel companies from accessing any of these relief programs.
Additionally, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House plans to consider a package of bipartisan energy bills from the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to promote investment in energy innovation and clean energy development. There has also been some discussion about bringing the stalled bipartisan Senate energy bill, the American Energy Information Act, back to the Senate floor in September.
Please keep in mind, however, that while most expect Congress to pass a continuing resolution before leaving to campaign in October, there are still scenarios in which that may not happen. The stalled negotiations on coronavirus relief could drag negotiations on government funding past September 30 and into a government shutdown.