The window is closing fast for Congress to agree on funding the government for fiscal 2021 as well as providing more coronavirus assistance to farmers, schools and sectors of the economy hammered by the pandemic.
Lawmakers headed into the weekend with reasons for optimism that they could get to vote on a massive package that would include both the FY21 funding and COVID-19 aid measures.
A continuing resolution that has been funding since the fiscal year began Oct. 1 expires on Friday, but Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has been saying negotiators would need more time than that, and there were reports on Friday the deadline would be moved back with new one-week CR to keep the government funded through Dec. 18.
A bipartisan $908 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes $26 billion for agriculture and nutrition and $10 billion for broadband has been gaining traction among lawmakers.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, one senator who has been involved in negotiating the bipartisan package, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, expressed confidence that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would accept a compromise proposal. "The pain of the American people is driving this, and I’m optimistic that both of those leaders will come on board," Cassidy said.
He said a moratorium on evictions remains a sticking point as well as liability protections for businesses.
Also involved in the negotiations is Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. He said on ABC This Week "it is really is a superhuman effort on our part to get this together in time to help the American people as quickly as possible."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters on Friday there is still time to reach an agreement on the omnibus funding bill and coronavirus relief.
“Don’t worry about a date. It will be in sufficient time for us to get it done,” she said.
McConnell, R-Ky., said last week coronavirus relief and an omnibus funding bill would likely come in one package, and Pelosi was pleased he took that path.
“That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” Pelosi said. “In other words, you see a bill come to the floor. You don’t see the whole underpinnings and the orchestration of what it takes to get to a place.”
More and more GOP senators have signaled their openness to the bipartisan bill including Democrats Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. GOP Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., signaled their receptivity to the package to The Washington Post.
Graham told reporters Thursday he’d “never been more hopeful that we'll get a bill,” saying he’d support the $908 measures, while cautioning it needed liability protections and restaurant relief.
McConnell has his own coronavirus relief bill, which is smaller and more targeted than the bipartisan bill.
"I will support what Senator McConnell wants to propose but it doesn't have any Democratic support. I'm tired of doing showboats here. Mitch doesn't want showboats; I don't want showboats,” Graham said.
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President-elect Joe Biden signaled his support for the bipartisan bill, but White House officials clarified after a press conference Thursday, President Donald Trump supported McConnell’s bill.
Kip Eideberg, senior vice president of government and industry relations at the American Equipment Manufacturers, said Congress should pass the bipartisan bill.
“The emergency relief package released by the Problem Solvers Caucus and a group of Senators on both sides of the aisle provides a clear pathway to a bipartisan, bicameral deal.” Eideberg said Friday. “While some issues still need to be addressed, too many American workers and families are running out of time."
Also this week, the Agriculture Department is scheduled on Friday to end sign-up periods for Dairy Margin Coverage and the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Here’s a list of this week's events:
Monday Dec. 7
American Seed Trade Association CSS & Seed Expo 2020, through Wednesday.
Tuesday Dec. 8
Noon — USDA releases Census of Horticulture report.
Wednesday Dec. 9
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee subcommittee hearing on 1890s Land Grant Institutions.
Western Governors Association conference through Thursday
Thursday Dec. 10
10 a.m. — Senate Small Business Committee hearing on Paycheck Protection Program,
Friday Dec. 11
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