The Senate returns next week and the House on September 14; but the stalemate on the next step for coronavirus relief legislation continues. This past week Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi talked by phone but both sides reported no progress on a framework for the next bill. The two sides remain $1 trillion apart with the House insisting on a $2.2 trillion price tag, and while the White House has moved from its initial figure of $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion, their offer fell well short of the Democrats’ demands.

When the Senate returns next week, Republican Leader McConnell plans to unveil what is being labeled a “skinny” bill totaling around $500 billion. Prior to the August break, McConnell worked with the White House and came up with a $1 trillion virus relief package but found he had at least 20 Republican Senators opposed to spending that much money. During the past few weeks, he has been talking to the fiscally conservative Senators to see if he can garner 51 votes for the new pared down legislation. With only 53 Republican Senators and the VP available to break a tie, he can only afford to lose three of his Republican members. All agree the “skinny” bill will never pass the House and is only a political statement; but at this point getting 50 Republicans to vote for the McConnell package is an unanswered question.

In one positive development the call between Pelosi and Mnuchin, while failing to make progress on a relief package, did lead to a positive agreement by both the White House and the Speaker to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. Both sides said they would keep controversial “poison pills” out of the needed Continuing Resolution (CR), but another critical issue of how long the CR would run was not discussed, and that could be a very controversial issue as the final details on a CR are negotiated.

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