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Potential Supreme Court Nomination Further Narrows Odds of Stimulus, New COVID-19 Relief

  • Potential for fast-tracked Supreme Court nomination could further reduce the likelihood of Congress approving a new round of COVID-19 relief
  • Government spending bill, election campaigning could also divert attention
  • $1.5 trillion compromise proposal proposed to break deadlock, but may not satisfy either party

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Republican efforts to nominate a replacement before Election Day, could dampen the already diminished chances that Congress will agree on a new round of COVID-19 relief before Americans go to the polls in November.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that Senate Republicans plan to hold a vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee, who is expected to be announced later this week. This decision has rankled Democrats, who have compared the swift action to Republicans’ refusal to hold a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, and further highlighted partisan divisions in Congress.

The fight over the Supreme Court nomination is likely to crowd out other considerations in the next several weeks. Congress must also come to an agreement on funding the government beyond the end of September or else trigger a government shutdown, and many members of both the Senate and House of Representatives are also likely to leave Washington to visit their home districts as part of their re-election campaign.

While Congress passed a bipartisan relief bill at the outset of a pandemic, more recent efforts to approve additional relief funds have come to grief as Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on the price and scope of any new legislation. The Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of moderates from both parties, has proposed a $1.5 trillion relief bill for items such as $1,200 stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, renewing the Paycheck Protection Program to provide loans to small businesses, and $500 billion to shore up state and local budgets to help prevent public sector layoffs.

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