Several updates in Congress in the sprint to an August recess, scheduled August 10th-September 7th. Many details have been poorly or incorrectly reported in the press. Below are some wave top-level updates.
HAC-D Proposal – Defense Appropriations – a Spending Bill that actually spends
The House Appropriations Committee has now passed their proposed funding updates for the Defense Department for FY21. The bill will likely be lumped into another “bus” of several spending bills (see below) before being voted on the House floor as soon as this week. The bill calls for $694.6 billion; an increase of $1.3 billion from FY 2020, but $3.7 billion less than the President’s request.
The NDAA – Defense Authorization – a Policy Bill that includes numbers, not dollars
Both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Both versions seemed to have wide bipartisan support with the vote being 295 to 125 in the House and 86 to 14 in the Senate. While the President has threatened to veto any bill that requires the military to rename bases named after Confederate generals, both chambers passed their version including such language with veto-proof majorities. Issues remain to be finalized in conference between the House and Senate, namely around the number of F-35s to buy, the number of submarines to buy, and how to prioritize the Pacific. Timing of a conference has yet to be announced.
House Minibus and Appropriations Outlook
In a 224 to 189 vote, the House passed a four-bill “minibus” appropriation this week providing funding for State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. It is the first appropriations floor action this year and provides $259.5 billion in spending.
The House plans to vote on a $1.4 trillion-dollar measure to include seven more of the FY21 appropriations bills this week, leaving only the bill concerning funding of the legislative branch in limbo in the House. The Senate has yet to begin its appropriations floor process for the year but there is already disagreement between the two chambers regarding police reform funding and pandemic aid, among other issues. Assuming the August recess holds as currently planned, timing of passage of all FY21 appropriations is unclear given the election and limited number of legislative days remaining. Prepare for a continuing resolution that pushes the final decisions until just after the November elections.
Coronavirus Relief Bill #4
On Monday, the Senate passed their updates of the next round of Coronavirus economic stimulus. Coming in at $1 trillion, it is a far smaller package than the House version, which passed the House in May and calls for $3 trillion in new funding. Some of the most glaring differences are in areas such as the expanded unemployment payments, which the House wants to maintain at $600 per week, while the Senate wants to cut to $200 additional per week. Other areas of disagreement come in the form of liability shields for businesses being pushed by the Senate and rental assistance being pushed by the House. Both bills provide an additional $1200 direct payment to Americans with some differences in who is eligible and how much children receive. For any of the spending to occur, the House and the Senate will have to reconcile their bills against the backdrop of critical enhanced unemployment funding set to run out at the end of the month. This funding would become available immediately upon passage.
Regardless of where the final number for Relief Bill #4 lands, we are about to cross the $10 trillion mark in pandemic response efforts.
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