Legislative / Policy Update
House Schedule. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised Members this afternoon that “absent an emergency, the House is not expected to meet prior to Monday, May 4.” This is just a target date and could be pushed back, depending on advice from the medical community. If there is a need to take action on critical legislation related to the coronavirus response or other legislative priorities, Members will be given sufficient notice to return to Washington, D.C.
Interim Package. An impasse continues between Republicans and Democrats on additional assistance for small businesses and possibly hospitals and state and local governments. Last Thursday, April 9, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked unanimous consent to approve $250 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans to small businesses. (This is in addition to the $350 billion in the CARES Act.) Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) objected. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) then asked unanimous consent that the Majority Leader’s request be modified to make various programmatic changes to McConnell’s request of $250 billion for small businesses; add $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers, and health systems; provide $150 billion for state and local governments; and increase the maximum SNAP (food stamp) benefit by 15%. Senator McConnell objected.
Since then, there appears to have been no progress toward finding a compromise. The next pro forma sessions of the House are scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, and Friday, April 17. The Senate met in pro forma session this morning with no business conducted and will meet again on Thursday, April 16.
Paper Hearings. With in-person hearings on Capitol Hill still not possible, some committees have held “paper hearings.” For example, on April 9, the Senate Commerce Committee held such a hearing on “Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus.”
At the start of the paper hearing, the committee posted the chairman’s and ranking member’s opening statements and testimony of the seven witnesses. Committee members had until close of business that day to submit questions to the witnesses, and those questions are now posted on the committee’s website. Witnesses were provided a 96-business-hour turnaround time to answer member questions, and those responses will be posted on the website. The committee will provide an official transcript for the record, and all paper hearing documents will be available online on the committee’s hearing page.
The Senate is in session and could take action to clear legislation the House approved last week to provide more flexibility for the Paycheck Protection Program. The House, meanwhile, does not plan to re-convene until June 30 as it waits for the Senate to act on the next coronavirus package and will hold remote committee meetings throughout the month.Read More
Both chambers support changes that will provide small businesses more flexibility in using the Paycheck Protection Program; the House will vote this week on its version. On the political front, Biden almost matched the President in fundraising totals for April but lags far behind in cash on hand.Read More
On Capitol Hill, the House last week passed still another legislative package to address the repercussions from the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a resolution to allow for voting by proxy On the election front, Republicans are moving full speed ahead for thousands to attend their convention in Charlotte, while Democrats are looking at options to allow for virtual participation at their convention in Milwaukee.Read More