Both Ends of Pennsylvania Avenue Are Tackling the Pandemic

Was it yesterday that I wrote about Congress negotiating and passing legislation in record time?

Did I say what usually takes weeks and months is now being done in a matter of days?

Days just became hours.

Yesterday, the President signed into law H.R. 6021, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act also known as the second COVID aid legislation, COVID-2.

Today, a draft COVID-3 bill was released late this afternoon to everyone’s surprise: S.3548

The new legislation is titled the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’’ or the ‘‘CARES Act’’.  

Before I get into the details, let’s level set where we are with the multiple pieces of legislation addressing the pandemic: 

  • COVID #1 is R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act signed into law by President Donald Trump signed on March 6, 2020. The bill provides a total of $8.3 billion for testing, research, and aid to state and local governments.
  • COVID #2 is H.R. 6021, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law last night, March 18. This legislation included provisions on free testing, paid leave, unemployment, and food assistance. 
  • COVID #3 is the bill currently being negotiated and outlined below, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the ‘‘CARES Act’’.
  • COVID #4 referenced below is another economic aid package expected in May.

It is important to note that Senate Leader McConnell released this bill without consulting with Minority Leader Schumer/Senate Democrats or Speaker Pelosi/House Democrats. These provisions will change as Senate Republicans have indicated some of the income thresholds and unemployment insurance thresholds are low because they know Democrats will want to increase both of these levels.   

The other scenario is that Senate Republicans could force Democrats to accept this bill, the same way Democrats forced Senate Republicans to accept the last COVID-2 aid package that included paid leave provisions opposed by Republicans. 

It remains to be seen whether negotiations with Democrats will yield any changes to this draft bill.

One nugget of good news: the draft bill proposes to push the tax filing deadline to July 15 for everyone.

To dig deeper into the draft legislation and Senate Republicans approach, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered the following remarks on the Senate Floor. As an aside, the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader typically offer opening remarks on the Senate Floor for the day’s proceedings when the chamber is in session.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s full remarks:  Majority Leader’s You Tube Channel

Highlights of the Leader’s remarks are as follows:

  • As our nation confronts this health crisis and the economic crisis it’s spawning, Senate republicans have a bold proposal
  • Officially introducing the COVID-3 aid package
  • Four major priorities that are extremely urgent and necessary
  1. Direct financial help for American people
  2. Rapid relief for small businesses and employees
  3. Significant steps to stabilize economy and protect jobs
  4. Support for brave health care professionals and patients fighting coronavirus on the front lines
  • Yesterday we passed legislation (HR 6021) that originated from the House with wide bipartisan margins.
  • Hope this bill will enjoy respect and be treated with urgency by members across the aisle and across the Capitol. 
  • Next steps will be explained and discussed in the coming hours/days. 
  • The following Republican Senators will take the lead in negotiating with their Democratic counterparts:
  1. Chairman Crapo and Senator Toomey (Banking Committee)
  2. Chairman Alexander (HELP Committee)
  3. Chairman Grassley and Senator Portman (Finance Committee)
  4. Chairman Rubio and Senator Collins (Small Business Committee)
  5. Chairman Wicker and Senator Thune (Commerce Committee)
  • All need to meet with their Democratic colleagues and work out an agreement over the weekend.
  • Senators asked to stay in DC until the work is done. Senate is not going anywhere until we take action.
  • As soon as an agreement has been reached between senators, the Trump Administration will send Mnuchin, National Economic Council, White House Leg. Affairs to negotiate with Congress.
  • This must be handled at the Member level until resolved.
  • This is not the last chance to help via legislation.
  • Look forward to meeting with Democrats counterparts.

Since today’s bill was introduced without input from Senate Democrats, this bill is a start to the negotiations on COVID-3, The CARES Act.

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