Congress remains at an impasse on the next coronavirus relief package, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said a decision on whether to proceed on the “fourth and final bill” will likely be made “in about a month.” He added that Senate Republicans would take the lead on the bill, which would be “narrowly crafted,” pouring cold water on House Democrats’ desire for quick passage of the provisions found in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800).
Still, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would continue to urge Republicans to negotiate and push for Senate passage of the House-approved Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010), which received overwhelming bipartisan support (417-1) last week. H.R. 7010 would ease some restrictions by extending the time small businesses have to use the loans from eight weeks to 24 weeks; extending the rehiring deadline from June 30 to December 30; and reducing the loan amount employers have to spend on payroll in order for it to be forgiven from75 percent to 60 percent. According to the Small Business Administration, a total of $511 billion in loans have been approved as of May 23, leaving about $148 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding.
As Congress considers making available additional relief dollars to states, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will host a hearing with Governors Jared Polis (D-CO), Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), focusing on the challenges faced by states in facing the pandemic and specifically looking into efforts to increase testing capacity. The House-approved HEROES Act would replenish the Coronavirus Relief Fund, providing distinct funding streams to states ($500 billion) and local governments ($375 billion).
Looking forward, the House does not plan to return for floor votes until June 30, unless House Democrats reach a deal with Senate Republicans on coronavirus legislation sooner. In the meantime, the House plans to hold hearings and markups on must-pass legislation, including appropriation bills for FY 2021 and legislation to bolster the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with floor votes slated for the end of June and early July, according to the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
Major legislative packages already introduced in the House, including the HEROES Act and the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379), as well as Senate Democrats’ white paper on expanding health care coverage and affordability, may provide some clues as to the types of legislation House Democrats will consider this summer with respect to the ACA. Provisions in the white paper include establishing special enrollment periods; restructuring the sliding scale for premium assistance for individuals enrolled in a qualified health plan offered on the ACA exchange; providing additional funding to support outreach, education, and ACA enrollment assistance; and overturning the Trump administration’s proposes expanding short-term plans and relaxing guardrails for Section 1332 waivers.