What's Ahead in Washington
Court Fight Could Upend Senate Agenda
A fight over filling the Supreme Court vacancy may diminish chances for action on spending, infrastructure and other legislation.
Prospects for another economic stimulus to help coronavirus recovery efforts were faltering before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) intention to move ahead with confirming a nominee to fill her seat makes it less likely Senate or House leadership will negotiate agreements on annual appropriations bills or pass other items during the post-election, lame-duck session, strategists said.
Senate Republicans are developing plans to begin confirmation hearings on or around Oct. 12 for Trump’s pick, setting up a bitter partisan fight over the nomination before the November election. The timeline could lead to a final vote by the full Senate by the week of Oct. 26, according to sources familiar with the process. But Democrats could use procedural maneuvers to delay that process.
Source: Bloomberg Reports
New Stimulus Bill in the Works; Senate chances “Slim”
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told senior Democrats Thursday a draft coronavirus relief bill would be about $2.4 trillion, and would include airlines, restaurants and PPP small business aid, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Both sides had largely given up on stimulus talks after a weeks-long stalemate, even amid signs of strain in financial markets. But Thursday brought a flurry of activity that suggested movement on virus relief efforts as the clock runs out for Congress.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed willingness yesterday to resume talks that broke off in August.
The new Democratic plan is roughly in line with the last offer made by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, which the administration rejected. Smaller than the $3.4 trillion package the House passed in May, it’s still more than the $1.5 trillion Trump has indicated he would accept, and much bigger than the $650 billion in new spending supported by Senate Republicans.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) says the chances are “slim” for Congress to pass a stimulus package despite comments from Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin about resuming aid talks.
Source: Bloomberg Reports
Senate Advances CR; Final Vote Expected Tuesday
Senators easily cleared the first procedural hurdle in averting a government shutdown, but will have to wait until next week to send a stopgap funding measure to the president’s desk.
The Senate voted 93-2 Thursday to proceed to consideration of a continuing resolution (H.R. 8337) to fund the government through Dec. 11. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture yesterday before members left town. They’ll return Tuesday for an evening vote to end debate. They’ve yet to schedule a vote on passage. Funding is set to run out after Wednesday.
More from Reuters
Bipartisan House Panel Proposes Two-Year Budget; Earmark Framework:
A framework for replacing earmarks and moving to biennial budget resolutions were among the 40 recommendations approved yesterday by a bipartisan House panel tasked with finding ways to improve the functioning of Congress.
The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which has six Republicans and six Democrats, capped off two years of working to find a way to improve congressional efficiency that would be accepted by a polarized Capitol Hill. The package included prioritizing committee work and encouraging debate on the House floor.
A proposal to require the budget to be adopted every two years, rather than every year, is supported by Pelosi as well as former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who argued it would give Congress one less deadline to meet and make federal spending more predictable.
The panel also proposed, as an alternative to earmarks, a community-focused grant program that would allow local officials, rather than those in Washington, decide the details of how federal funds should be used in their areas.
Source: Bloomberg Reports
Bipartisan federal NIL bill introduced for college sports
A bipartisan pair of congressmen introduced federal legislation Thursday that, if passed, would open the door for college athletes to make money from a wide variety of endorsement deals and create some flexibility to adjust their proposed regulations over the course of the next three years.
The bill, co-authored by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), provides some restrictions on the types of products or companies college athletes would be allowed to endorse. It stops short of implementing all of the restrictions that the NCAA and other college sports administrators have asked Congress to help them impose. The proposed law would also create a 13-member commission whose role would be to recommend ways for legislators to change the law as the nascent marketplace for college athletes becomes more clear and any unintended consequences emerge.
The congressmen both said they hope to bring the bill to a vote sometime in early 2021.
The A5 conferences issued a statement in response to the bill:
“The members of the Autonomy Five Conferences and our thousands of student-athletes commend and thank Congressman Gonzalez and Congressman Cleaver for bringing Republicans and Democrats together to pursue a national standard to allow appropriate third-party payments for licensing Name, Image, and Likeness. The uniquely American model of collegiate athletics depends on national rules that are settled and enforceable and their legislation is a great foundation for the House of Representatives to address this need. We look forward to working with concerned members to solve this pressing challenge.”
More from ESPN
House Passes Clean Energy Bundle; Senators Look to Finish Up
The top senators on energy issues are working to muscle a bipartisan energy innovation package to the floor for consideration before lawmakers leave for the campaign trail, while the House passed its own proposal on Thursday.
The Senate could resume consideration of the American Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) next week, according to the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “We’re still working it,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has spent years crafting the 53-bill energy package.
The odds of passage may be narrowed by the coming fight over a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died on Sept. 18, as well as lawmakers’ needs to depart Washington in the run-up to the November election.
That means the energy measure will likely require unanimous consent from all senators to advance on the floor, Murkowski said in a brief interview Tuesday.
The House passed a similar, though not identical, energy innovation and efficiency bill (H.R. 4447) on Thursday by a 220-185 vote.
If the Senate also passes its bill, committee leadership from both chambers will meet in an informal conference to reconcile differences.
The House is in session the week of Sept. 18, 2020
The Senate is in session the week of Sept. 18, 2020.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing:
"Pathway to a Vaccine: Ensuring a Safe and Effective Vaccine People Will Trust" - Virtual Hearing
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Energy Hearing:
"Generating Equity: Improving Clean Energy Access and Affordability" - Virtual Hearing
Not to be missed
Airline CEOs plead with Washington
The race to prevent massive airline layoffs in October is heating up with CEOs and union leaders pleading with the White House and Congress to reach a deal for more industry aid.
Employers say they will have to start cutting tens of thousands of jobs in a little more than a week without congressional action. But despite bipartisan support to prevent job losses from hitting flight attendants and pilots, an agreement remains elusive amid a stalemate over a broader coronavirus relief bill.
Airline executives were in Washington this week pressing their case with leaders from both parties. They met with White House officials last week and spoke by phone the following day with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
From The Hill
Hospitals Better Prepared to Handle Covid This Fall
Physicians and leaders at many U.S. hospitals say they are feeling better prepared to respond to a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases this fall, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Physicians told the publication they have a better understanding of COVID-19 and how to treat it, including which patients need to be ventilated and when patients can be discharged. Leaders said they also have a better sense of which treatments and supplies are needed to treat COVID-19 patients and are stockpiling them in case of future surges.
This spring "was ultimately baptism by fire," Donald Landry, MD, physician-in-chief of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, told the Journal. Armed with new treatment knowledge, this fall should be very different for hospitals and physicians, he said.
Hospitals and physicians pointed to decreasing death rates and lower intensive care unit patient volumes as evidence that these changes are leading to better outcomes. Improved outcomes may also be due to declining COVID-19 patient volumes, which allow physicians to spend more time with patients, along with the fact that more virus patients have been younger and healthier than in the spring, hospitals and physicians said. Patients are also coming into the hospital earlier for care, which allows physicians to treat them before their condition worsens.
More from Becker’s Hospital Review