By Leslie Sack
Congress and the Trump administration are scrambling to develop a third legislative response package aimed at stemming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. After passing “Phase II” coronavirus legislation on Wednesday, March 18, the Senate is moving on quickly to “Phase III” — the details of which are extremely fluid. For this package, lawmakers have been highly focused on provisions that would further support sectors of the economy that have been substantially impacted by the outbreak as lawmakers push for at least $750 billion of emergency spending.
After passing a “Phase II” bill that was largely crafted in the Democratic led House of Representatives, Senate Republicans are working to lead on “Phase III” efforts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has established four task forces to formulate a proposal around the $1 trillion request submitted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as well as the $46 billion request from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought:
• Small Business Liquidity — Led by the Senate Small Business and Banking Committees
• Financial Assistance to Americans — Led by the Senate Finance Committee
• Aviation Assistance — Led by Senate Commerce, Appropriations, and Finance Committees
• Health Care Response — Led by Senate HELP, Finance, and Appropriations Committees
Leader McConnell has indicated that these Republican-only task forces will shape the Senate Republican position before he negotiates with others. Text of the initial Senate Republican draft is expected to be finalized soon. Meanwhile, although House members are not expected to return to Washington until a package is ready, it is rumored that Speaker Pelosi is drafting her own “Phase III” legislation, potentially setting the stage for more drawn out negotiations than the previous two measures entailed. Either way, this process is moving extremely quickly.
The Senate is expected to stay in session until a deal is finalized, possibly working through the weekend to expedite this bill. Senators will likely use existing legislation as a “shell” to include the finalized bill text and would pass the bill to the House. House members, for their part, are on standby to be called back into session after the upper chamber clears the third round of aid.
SFA will continue to monitor legislative developments on Capitol Hill, and members should feel free to reach out with any questions.