With airlines threatening to lay off thousands of workers, this week could be pivotal if there is going to be a preelection deal on another major coronavirus relief package.
House Democratic leaders have been preparing a $2.4 trillion proposal that could be put on the House floor this week, but it wasn’t clear whether the bill was primarily intended to jump-start negotiations with the White House or provide political cover to vulnerable caucus members.
Republicans’ top line, which is well below the Democrats' plan, is about $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion, the amount of new spending in a bipartisan proposal offered by the Problem Solvers caucus.
President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Friday afternoon that there had been “a lot of conservations" with Democrats, "which is good, but there’s no agreement yet. I can’t give you a number."
The stimulus bill that Democratic congressional leaders are discussing would be scaled back significantly from their HEROES Act, which passed the chamber in October but was never considered in the Senate because of its price tag of more than $3 trillion.
“If the Democrats come back with a plan that’s more palatable to our thinking, that would be fine,” Kudlow said.
Thursday is a critical day for the airline industry, and potentially for Congress: A deal that provided $25 billion in aid to the carriers in return for not laying off workers expires Wednesday; some carriers have made plans to lay off tens of thousands of employees if there is no extension to the aid.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., insisted Democrats want to reach agreement on a stimulus bill, not just have a vote that they can use as a campaign issue.
"We’re really focused on trying to get a negotiated deal. … We want to get something signed so people get money,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The HEROES Act included $33 billion in agricultural aid as well as provisions that would authorize USDA to make coronavirus relief payments to ethanol producers, livestock producers who had animals euthanized because of processing disruptions; contract poultry growers and textile mills. A GOP bill that Democrats blocked from moving in the Senate contained less specific authorization language but was intended to authorize aid to the same groups, sponsors said.
Lawmakers will largely be on the campaign trail after this week until the election, except for the Senate’s consideration of Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court justice. And Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown used the weekly Democratic Party address on Saturday to accuse Republicans of punting on pandemic relief.
“The stock market is back up, so they think everything is just fine, because President Trump, a good stock market automatically means a good economy. Nothing to do with wages. Nothing to do with employment. Nothing to do with people’s standards of living. They see no urgency," Brown said.
“But now, after months of inaction, they are willing to drop everything, they’re willing to move heaven and earth to put another corporate special interest judge on the Supreme Court."
Also this week, the Senate is expected to approve a stopgap spending bill by Wednesday that would keep the government funded until Dec. 11 while also replenishing the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp. account, a $30 billion revolving fund that USDA uses to disburse payments to farmers and marketing loans for commodities in storage.
The new federal fiscal year starts Thursday, and Congress hasn’t agreed on any of the annual spending bills required to fund government departments and agencies for FY21.
New aid payments will be going out to farmers regardless of whether there is a deal on a new coronavirus relief bill. USDA opened enrollment last Monday on the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which is funded out of the CCC. The payments are expected to total more than $13 billion.
USDA also will be making payments in October to farmers who enrolled in the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs as well as landowners who have acreage idled under the Conservation Reserve Program.
Elsewhere this week, Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City will hold their annual Ag Outlook Forum on Monday. The speakers this year at the Kansas City event, which will be conducted both with a limited in-person audience and online, include Gregg Doud, the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural trade negotiator, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky, USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson, and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Agri-Pulse will also host a webinar Tuesday with Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Kip Eideberg from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers focused on rural issues ahead of the 2020 election.
Also on Tuesday, the first of the three presidential debates also takes place in Cleveland. Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News has said the topics that Trump and Joe Biden will be questioned on will include the economy, COVID-19, and the Supreme Court.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Sept. 28
Agri-Pulse and Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City annual Ag Outlook Forum.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Sept. 29
Noon — Agri-Pulse, Association of Equipment Manufacturers host webinar on "The Intersection of Rural America and Manufacturing"
8 p.m. — First presidential debate, Cleveland.
Wednesday, Sept. 30
Thursday, Oct. 1
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on conservation programs.
10 a.m. — House Small Business subcommittee hearing on preventing fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
8:30 p.m. — Bipartisan Policy Center webinar, “Tapping into Markets for Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions.”
Friday, Oct. 2
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com.