End of Fiscal Year Looming, COVID Relief Negotations Continue

September 10, 2020

The House and Senate returned to work, if not physically to Washington, DC, after an August recess. With the general elections under two months away and fewer than 10 legislative days before fiscal year (FY) 2021 starts on October 1, legislators will need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) – funding at the FY 2020 level – to keep the federal government open.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has advocated for a CR to go through March, while other veterans of the process predict a CR through December 11. In an effort to expedite the process and improve the chances of passing, both parties have agreed to a ‘clean’ CR, one without any policy changes or exceptions to previous laws referred to as ‘anomalies’.

The House has already passed 10 out of 12 of the FY 2021 spending bills, including those funding federal agencies supporting behavioral and brain sciences. The Senate Appropriations Committee, on the other hand, has yet to introduce any draft FY 2021 spending bills and is not likely to post or mark-up any before October, and could possibly wait until after the election. Subcommittees may release tables and report language this month, providing markers for future omnibus negotiations. 

COVID Relief Funding

On September 9, Senate Republicans unveiled an estimated $300-billion coronavirus relief proposal, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act. Click here for a full summary.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized the bill in a joint statement and immediately vowed to block what they deemed to be an inadequate plan. Democrats are seeking $2.2 trillion overall and the White House proposing $1.3 trillion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said an initial vote on the measure would happen Thursday, September 10, confident he could get 51 votes for the measure, however remaining short of the 60 votes required to advance in the Senate.