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What's Ahead in Washington

Temporary Shutdown Possible
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday he will make an announcement at 5 pm EST on the path forward for government funding. Hoyer told reporters the options are to either pass a short-term stopgap funding bill to keep the government open, announce a deal on a spending bill or to recess again to allow more time for a deal on a spending bill.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said it’s possible there will be a brief, partial government shutdown over the weekend as negotiations continue on a longer-term spending bill and a Covid-relief package. Some senators could object to a short-term spending bill to cover the gap, Thune said.
Lawmakers are trying to finish by the time government funding expires at midnight, but they may need to work into the weekend. Congressional leaders continue to say they expect a deal on an omnibus funding bill and a coronavirus relief measure. But with the deadline looming, negotiations have taken too long to get the massive legislative package signed into law by then.
From Bloomberg reports and CNN
Virus Relief Final Deal?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says bipartisan congressional leadership is continuing to make “significant headway” on a virus relief proposal.
“I’m even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is very close at hand,” McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor on Friday.
He says Congressional leaders are working through the final sticking points of a coronavirus stimulus deal, though the agreement probably won’t come together in time for both chambers to vote in time. Still, McConnell and a White House spokesman have said that negotiators are close to a final deal.
Congressional leaders had settled on a $900 billion framework midweek that is expected to include a $300 federal unemployment bonus, a new round of direct payments, small business funding and money to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.
Negotiators already dropped two contentious provisions that were holding up an agreement — liability protections for employers and funding for state and local governments.
But leaders had hit a new roadblock as Democrats on Friday accused Republicans, led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), of seeking to hamstring the incoming Biden administration by cutting off Federal Reserve emergency lending facilities created by the CARES Act to protect the fragile economy.
From NBC
Permanent Breaks for Liquor Industry Mulled
Congress could be on the verge of making excise tax breaks for brewers, winemakers, and distillers permanent as part of the year-end government funding and pandemic aid measure. There is a tentative agreement on making the provision permanent, according to four people familiar with the negotiations. Any move to make temporary tax incentives permanent or extend them for multiple years will depend on the overall final cost of the funding package.
From Bloomberg reports
Legislation to improve Cyber Defenses Ahead in 2021
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will pursue legislation next year to improve the nation’s cyber defenses, aiming to prevent a similar breach to the SolarWinds Corp. hack affecting federal departments and agencies.
Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) will lead the committee next Congress. The pair plan both hearings and legislation to address cybersecurity lapses in the federal government.
“We intend to work together to understand the origin, scope, and severity of this breach, and plan to work on bipartisan comprehensive legislation to improve our cyber defenses to ensure this doesn’t happen again”
From Bloomberg reports

The House and Senate are not in session the week of Dec. 21, 2020. 

Not to be missed

Democrat Senators Offer Bills on College Sports
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on Thursday introduced legislation that would dramatically alter the compensation and treatment of athletes in major-college sports programs.
The measure backs those changes with a variety of enforcement provisions that would be directed by a commission whose governing board would be appointed by the President and have subpoena power. It also would provide athletes and state attorneys general the right to sue for enforcement.
The 61-page piece of legislation, named the “College Athletes Bill of Rights,” would go far beyond other recently introduced bills largely aimed at improving athletes’ ability to make money from their names, images and likenesses (NIL).
The Autonomy Five Conferences issued a statement on the legislation:
“The Autonomy Five Conferences thank Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Richard Blumenthal for their interest in the future of college athletics. We won’t agree on everything but we can find some common ground between their proposal and other proposals by Sen. Roger Wicker and Reps. Anthony Gonzalez and Emanuel Cleaver. The creation of a national standard on NIL is a challenge Congress must address early in 2021. The uniquely American model of collegiate athletics depends on national rules that are enforceable and protective of the educational opportunities provided to student-athletes in both revenue and non-revenue sports. We are working with Congress to pursue answers that work for all our student athletes”
Read more from USA Today
Airlines Hoping for Further Relief
Airline pilots and other employees are watching congressional leaders' coronavirus relief talks with hope as legislation that includes $17 billion for struggling airlines inches closer to completion.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told employees the company may have to enact furloughs for the first time in the airline's history because of the pandemic, much to the chagrin of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association. But Kelly said this week that Southwest will not furlough employees if Congress passes a second round of Payroll Support Program (PSP) to help airlines get by for the next four months.
From Fox Business
WRDA Could be Included in Year-End Spending Bill
House and Senate negotiators have overcome a speed bump that’s slowed passage of a bipartisan water infrastructure package, moving the legislation toward inclusion in the year-end spending bill.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) agreed to tweak language related to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that was authorized in the latest House-passed 2020 Water Resources Development Act (S. 1811), according to two aides familiar with the negotiations.
From Bloomberg reports and Politico
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