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Partisan Impasse on New COVID-19 Relief Likely to Continue in Congress

  • After Congress failed to extend further COVID-19 relief before recessing in August, members will tackle the issue this month
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voices support for individual bills on issues with bipartisan support, but Democrats favor a comprehensive package
  • Narrow Republican relief proposal unlikely to win support among Democrats

Although both Democrats and Republicans had proposed new COVID-19 relief measures before Congress recessed in August, the parties failed to reconcile the differences in the bills, adjourning as programs like enhanced unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program were coming to a close. This impasse is likely to continue as the Senate is set to return next week.

In an appearance Tuesday before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he believes a bipartisan agreement can be reached. He advocated that lawmakers focus on initiatives that can win broad support, including measures such as a PPP renewal focused on small businesses and funding for areas like agriculture, child care, and the United States Postal Service.

Democratic leaders have called for a comprehensive bill to address COVID-19 relief rather than piecemeal measures. Both parties have accused each other of being intransigent, with Republicans saying Democrats have been unwilling to negotiate on the cost of the next relief bill. Democrats contend that they have offered to reduce their proposal by $1.2 trillion and that Republicans have refused to consider an increase in their top line.

Besides the price tag, the parties have also shown fundamental disagreements on the severity of the COVID-19 crisis. Some proposals, such as funding for state and local government or targeted bailouts for airlines and other hard-hit industries, have also proved controversial.

Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce a “skinny” $500 billion relief option when the Senate reconvenes, but this measures is unlikely to pass since it is considerably lower than the $2.2 trillion sought by Democrats. The parties must also come to an agreement on funding the government by the end of the month in order to avoid a shutdown.


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