Report: Congress returns Monday, has 2 weeks to pass several major bills
UPDATED 2:30 PM PT – Sunday, November 29, 2020
On Monday, Congress returns to work to gear up into a two-week overdrive as lawmakers conclude their work for the year.
Lawmakers have to work fast if they hope to pass a number of major legislative measures before the short working period is up. The House has just nine in-session days starting Monday. The Senate has 14 before breaking for the new year.
The biggest item on the legislative to-do list is an agreement on government funding. Congress faces a December 11 deadline to pass a government-funding bill and to avoid a shutdown.
Reports said negotiations over Thanksgiving ended with a deal on spending levels for the 12 2021 fiscal appropriation bills.
The chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees said they would sit down to hammer out the final details. Committee staff and the White House would finalize each of the spending bills.
In early November, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bills will fully fund several ‘crucial priorities,’ which includes securing the border to supporting public health.
“Our colleagues on the committee and their counterparts in the House need to continue their bicameral discussions and settle on top-line dollar amounts for each separate bill,” McConnell said. “I hope they will be able to reach this broad agreement by the end of this very week. That would help keep us on course to deliver full-year funding legislation, which helps our armed forces, and all federal agencies plan and get ahead of the curve by the December deadline.”
McConnell added he believes the White House would like to see an omnibus bill, however, President Trump has signaled he’s opposed to signing ‘mammoth spending bills.’
Negotiations also continue toward another coronavirus relief bill while both Democrats and Republicans remain at a stalemate over a dollar amount.
McConnell has pointed to several senators still backing a $500 billion proposal blocked by Democrats. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continue to hold firm on a $2.2 million bill as a starting point for talks.
Congress is expected to work overtime in a push to come to an agreement on a proposal.
In an interview Sunday, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he sees the lack of a relief bill as a failure.
“The problem was that our friends on the other side of the building thought that it was $2.4 trillion or nothing, but half of that would have made a big difference,” Blunt said. “The President was prepared to sign almost any size bill. I think they didn’t want to give him that win before the election, and now we can’t seem to figure out how to give it to him after the election.”
Lawmakers also said they want to resolve a fight over a plan to rename military bases as part of a military policy bill.
President Trump has already threatened to veto a bill if it includes language that would force the Pentagon to rename “problematic” bases.
These issues are compounded by the fact that control of the Senate for Congress’s next session remains up in the air as Georgia’s runoff races won’t be concluded until after the new year.