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Senate Adjournment Pushes Back Any New Economic Stimulus Until After Election Day

  • Senate departs Washington after vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, effectively killing any possibility of a vote on new economic stimulus before Election Day
  • Efforts to come to a consensus on COVID-19 relief have failed to produce a consensus since the expiration of earlier provisions over the summer
  • Outcome of the election will likely influence what a stimulus bill looks like and how soon it will pass

The Senate has adjourned until Nov. 9 following its 52-48 vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, punting any action on COVID-19 relief until after Election Day. Partisan differences have hampered attempts to provide new economic stimulus to assist businesses and taxpayers during the pandemic, but election results are likely to influence both the scope and timetable of a new bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been in discussions over a compromise relief bill that could win the support of both Democrats and Republicans, though progress has been slow. There has been significant disagreement over issues such as state and local aid, liability protections for businesses, and a national COVID-19 testing and tracing plan.

The Senate has been a stumbling block in these negotiations, given the uncertainty that 13 Republican senators would support a compromise bill with higher spending levels. Pelosi and Mnuchin are reportedly crafting a proposal that would fall in the $1.8 trillion to $2.2 trillion range, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate would not support such a measure. The chamber has tried without success to pass “skinny” relief measures, most recently a $500 billion measure that included funding for schools, unemployment benefits, and a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program to assist small businesses.

Democrats previously tried to adjourn the Senate until after the election to delay action on Barrett’s nomination, but included the caveat that they would vote on a stimulus bill if Pelosi and Mnuchin presented one. Senate Democrats were critical of Monday’s actions, saying Republicans have prioritized the Supreme Court seat over COVID-19 aid. McConnell previously said the Senate would vote on any measure supported by President Donald Trump, but also reportedly urged Trump not to agree to any compromise measure so as not to delay Barrett’s nomination.

The outcome of the Nov. 3 election will likely determine further action on economic stimulus. A Democratic sweep of Congress and the White House could delay action until the change in government takes place in January 2021, at which point a larger stimulus package is likely to pass. However, the results could prompt action on smaller bills during the lame duck session.

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