Two Weeks Notice

With only 13 legislative days remaining this year, Congress will be racing against the clock to accomplish its top priorities. Here’s where some of them stand:

Government Funding – The current short-term measure funding the U.S. government expires on Dec 11. Appropriations Committee Chairmen Richard Shelby and Nita Lowey are expected to agree this week on the overall numbers, at which point the appropriators can pull together the legislative text that would keep the government from a shut-down. It won’t be easy as the House spending bills reflect Democrat priorities and the Senate bills reflect Republican priorities. But the outlook is optimistic given both party leaders want to wrap up the bill rather than punting it to next year.

COVID-19 Relief More COVID relief in 2020 is uncertain. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still wants a $2+ trillion comprehensive bill, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is insisting on a narrower bill of about $500 billion. Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted he wants Congress to pass another bill and “make it big and focused.” But Republicans seem unwilling to stray too far from the $500 billion figure. And Democrats fear agreeing to a narrower bill would preclude them from getting more relief next year if the Senate remains in Republican hands.

Military Budget – Formal negotiations on legislation to set budgets and policies for the Pentagon could start this week with floor action on a conference agreement likely in early/mid-December. A change that would require renaming military bases named after Confederate leaders has bipartisan support in both chambers. But the Trump White House is threatening to veto the bill over that language.

Multiemployer Pension Plans – The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation is underfunded and facing insolvency in the next couple years.  Ongoing negotiations to protect the pensions of 1.4 million retirees covered under these plans could finally be resolved in the lame duck session–but it won’t be easy.