NAICU Washington Update

Status of Next COVID Relief Bill Remains Up in the Air

August 14, 2020

As another week ticks off the calendar, and the stalemate over the next coronavirus response supplemental bill continues, both the House and the Senate have headed home for recess because negotiations are at a standstill.  If election year politics take over, the result could be no bill at all.
To counter this, members of both parties in the House and Senate need to continue hearing about the needs facing students and colleges as a result of the pandemic. Having conversations with senators and representative while they are home are more important than ever. Continued pressure on Congress to get a bill passed will help get the negotiators back to the table.
The longer it takes congressional leadership to finalize a deal with the White House, the more entrenched each side will get into their political positions. When talks failed last week, President Trump issued four executive orders extending unemployment benefits, providing eviction protection, waiving student loan repayments, and suspending payroll taxes. Already, the issuing of the executive orders in lieu of a unified Republican response raises the political stakes by making the president look like he can fix things with the waive of a pen and without Congress.
On the surface, these orders seem like they address big issues many Americans are concerned about as a result of the pandemic. However, of the four executive orders, the waiver of student loan repayments if a borrower has no income is the most likely to survive a legal challenge.
Democrats are holding steady in relief negotiations, insisting on at least $2 trillion (the middle ground between both sides’ proposals) for their top priorities of state and local assistance, extension of at least $600 per week in unemployment benefits, increased emergency health care funding, and increased emergency education funding.
The election year calendar is not working in negotiators’ favor. With the recent announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate for the Democratic presidential ticket, Democrats are feeling emboldened to hold their ground as they head into their party convention next week. 
Republicans are holding their party convention the following week.  
As party attention shifts to election year politics, negotiations on the coronavirus response supplemental could easily be delayed into September, with the worst case scenario resulting in no bill at all.