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What's Ahead in Washington

Senate Democrats Block Coronavirus Relief Plan;
Further Relief May be Post-Election

Senate Democrats blocked a narrowly tailored coronavirus relief plan proposed by Republicans in a 52 to 47 vote that was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation for floor debate.

The failed push leaves Congress at an impasse just weeks before lawmakers return home to campaign in the pivotal fall elections.

If negotiators don’t make quick progress on a bipartisan agreement on a stimulus package this month, there may not be a chance to bring a measure up until the lame-duck session after the election.

“My guess would be that if we leave in September with a CR, we will not come back to do anything before the election,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters.

Estimated at roughly $500 billion to $700 billion, the package was less than the Republicans’ own $1 trillion bill from July, intended to target the most pressing areas for relief—reviving supplemental unemployment insurance benefits and extending aid for small businesses, in particular. The package was a fraction of the $2.2 trillion backed by Democrats. House Democrats passed $3.5 trillion in aid in May.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) dismissed the GOP’s bill as little more than an election-year prop for vulnerable Senate Republicans facing tough re-election bids. Yet he said he thought Republicans would return to the bargaining table to craft a bipartisan bill after failing to pass their own—as occurred with the previous aid packages.

“If past is prologue, there’s actually a significant chance that the public heat on many Republican senators as they go back home will have them come to their senses, and they’ll start negotiating with us in a serious way,” he said ahead of the Senate vote today.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued that much in his measure addressed areas that both parties agreed to, including the jobless benefits and Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. The question was whether Democrats prefer to “hide behind closed doors and refuse to help families before the election,” he said before the vote.
Read more from Politico

A “Clean” Continuing Resolution Could Avert Shutdown
Lawmakers expect to avert a shutdown at the end of the month by passing a stopgap funding measure, but critical details are still under discussion, including how long the measure will last and what extra legislative language will be inserted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Wednesday he supports a continuing resolution to fund the government into December. Democrats aren’t sure how long they’d like the measure to last, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said at a press conference.

“We’re discussing what time the CR should go to, and we haven’t formulated our position yet,” Schumer said.

Lawmakers often rely on a stopgap from the Sept. 30 deadline until December, and then negotiate a full spending deal or another stopgap during the lame-duck session. But a December 2018 funding deadline, after Democrats won control of the House, resulted in a 35-day shutdown, the longest ever.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to support a “clean” continuing resolution, without any other controversial measures attached.

But negotiators are still trying to determine what “clean” really means.
More from The Hill

House Bills on Healthcare Issues Up for Vote in the Coming Weeks
Bills related to rare pediatric diseases and marijuana used for research will come to the House floor in coming weeks, a leading House Democrat said.

Frank Pallone (D-NJ) chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said House leaders will seek to bring to the floor a slate of almost 40 health and communications bills his panel approved. The collection includes an extension of the pediatric priority review voucher program, which offers drug companies the chance to speed up approval of medicines if they create treatments for rare diseases. Another bill would establish a special enrollment period in Medicare for people with temporary insurance coverage.

“The idea would be to try to move all of these to the floor,” Pallone said during the Wednesday markup. “I’m not saying that’s necessarily going to happen but that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The bills would change federal law in response to the coronavirus or extend programs that have bipartisan support, Pallone said.

Getting legislation passed in September would let lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they’re making progress on health-care issues ahead of the November elections, despite little evidence the Senate will act on them.
From Bloomberg News reports

Highway Bill Extension Backed by Senate & House Chairmen
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) would support a one-year extension of surface transportation programs if work on a long-term bill can’t be completed by Sept. 30, according to committee aides.

The current law expires at the end of the month and prospects are slim for a multiyear reauthorization. The House did pass $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill (H.R. 2) in July that includes almost $500 billion over five years for highways, transit, and rail.

The Senate Environment Committee approved a highway portion (S. 2302) last year; other panels have yet to act. Action is needed to allow state highway, transit agencies to continue funding construction projects.
From Roll Call
President Plans to Reject Refinery Exemption
Trump administration officials have told ethanol advocates the government will reject requests by refineries to be waived from renewable fuel-usage requirements -- a bid to reinforce the president’s support in key swing states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The Environmental Protection Agency could reject as many as 67 of those retroactive waiver requests as soon as this week, according to four people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named prior to an announcement.

The planned move would follow another announcement that disappointed the oil industry and was aimed at shoring up support in a battleground state. Trump signed a presidential order on Tuesday to block offshore oil development near Florida, as well as Georgia and South Carolina.

The refinery waivers have been the subject of intense lobbying by Iowa ethanol producers and politicians, including Republican Senator Joni Ernst.
More from Farm Policy News

The House is in session the week of Sept. 14, 2020
The Senate is in session the week of Sept. 14, 2020.

Highlighted House Committee Hearings
Sept. 14
House Committee on Oversight and Reform
Subcommittee on Government Operations Hearing:
 "Postal Update"
Sept. 15
House Committee on Small Business
Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure Hearing:
"SBA Management Review: Office of Government Contracting and Business Development"
Sept. 16
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change Hearing:
"Building a 100 Percent Clean Economy: Opportunities for an Equitable, Low-Carbon Recovery"

Highlighted Senate Committee Hearings
Sept. 15
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Full Committee Hearing:
"Compensating College Athletes: Examining the Potential Impact on Athletes and Institutions."
Sept. 16
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Full Committee Hearing:
"Stakeholder Reactions: The Navigable Waters Protection Rule under the Clean Water Act."
Sept. 17
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Full Committee Hearing:
"Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA."


Not to be missed

Defense Contractors Face Delayed Impact of Covid-19
The damage to the defense industry caused by the pandemic has yet to be fully measured, and companies may soon be facing more-severe delayed effects, Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, said Wednesday.

Lord said the Pentagon plans to collect pandemic data on the tens of thousands of companies that make up the industrial base for the time period of March 15 through Sept. 15 in hopes of better documentation and a lifeline from Congress.

The Defense Department’s rough estimate of the need for assistance to defense contractors is $10 billion to $20 billion. Lord said the department wants the data to pinpoint exactly what companies were hit by the virus and how much is needed.

“There has been mixed reports in terms of revenue and profitability, but I would contend that most of the effects of Covid haven’t yet been seen because most companies gave their employees time off,” Lord said.

“They stretched out production, paid a lot of people for working 100% when perhaps they were only getting 50% of the hours in and so forth.”

Now the industry’s ability to absorb the economic hits from the pandemic is running out.

“We want to make sure that we have a one-time accounting for these major Covid hits very, very well-defined in terms of a period of time,” she said.

Negotiations on the next round of pandemic legislation between congressional Democrats and the administration are stalled. Any stimulus money doled out by Congress will take about six months to distribute, with two to three months of that devoted to collecting the company data.
Read more from Air Force Magazine
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly: ‘If Things Don’t Improve, This Just Can’t Continue’
Going into the office every day, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly describes the Dallas headquarters atmosphere as feeling a bit like the mountain hotel from the 1980s horror flick The Shining. 

“We’ve got a skeleton staff here,” he said. “Our headquarters can accommodate about 5,000 people roughly and there are maybe 100 people here every day. "

Those halls and cubicles are empty for the same reason many airplanes are. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of life for the past six months.

Kelly, who succeeded Southwest founder Herb Kelleher in 2008, spoke with The Dallas Morning News on Thursday about how the airline known for its upbeat attitude and friendly service is handling the toughest financial crisis in aviation history. 
Read excerpts from the interview in Aviation Pros

KBS Best

A note from the team at KBS:
On this most solemn of days, we invite you to take a moment to do as this editorial suggests: Take a step back from the woes of 2020 to recall Sept. 11, 2001. For many of us, that day started like every other but our nation would forever be altered by the time the sun set. 
From The New York Post

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