Washington D.C. Update: White House and Congress Unable to Pass Covid-19 Relief Before Election Day

Oct 29, 2020 | Insights

Despite increasing Covid-19 infections and ongoing economic impacts, the White House and Congress were unable to reach an agreement on an additional Covid-19 relief package in the week before the November 3, 2020 election. Depending on the results of the election, some are predicting that there will not be another Covid-19 relief package until January.

In the final weeks before the election, there were three or four sides to the negotiations between the White House and Congress. The House Democrats were sticking with their $2.2 trillion Heroes Act 2.0. This act was the same as the original Heroes Act passed by the House in May, but it cut the cost by about one-third. The Heroes Act 2.0 includes $9.5 billion in Covid-19 Relief Funds (CRF) for tribal governments.

Instead of a Covid-19 relief package, Senate Republicans were looking for signs that the economy was recovering and resisted additional federal spending. At the end of the summer, they finally put forward their HEALS Act, providing about $1 trillion in relief funding, but they could not get enough votes to move the bill forward in the Senate. In the weeks before the election, they tried again with a $500 billion skinny HEALS Act, but again could not get enough votes. Neither version included CRF funds for tribal governments.

President Trump was unpredictable, first by calling off negotiations and then, as the election got close, pushing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to get a deal. Mnuchin and House Democrats might have been able to get a deal in the $1.8 trillion to $2 trillion range, but Senate Republicans would not go that high.

Senate Republicans got support from a divided White House. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, was working behind the scenes to prevent agreement on a large package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was also working against a large relief package. He was concerned that negotiations over a large relief package would cause divisions between Republicans and disrupt efforts to approve the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

With time running out before the election, the Senate approved the Supreme Court nominee, but Congress was unable to pass additional Covid-19 relief. With the election pending and an upcoming lame duck session of Congress in November and December, it is hard to predict when political momentum to pass another relief bill will return.

Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP has offices in Louisville, Colorado, and Washington, DC. To learn more, visit nativelawgroup.com. 

Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. Our mission is to support and advance the sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-governance of our tribal clients. We take time to listen to, and fully understand, our clients’ concerns so we can develop responsive and appropriate solutions.