Por Andrew Taylor – The Associated Press
After months of disputes and a tense and toxic electoral campaign, members of Congress return for a final attempt, in their last session of the year, to reach agreements on the temporary spending law before December 11, avoiding the government shutdown. federal due to lack of budget, and perhaps finally get a new stimulus check approved.
COVID-19 relief, a $ 1.4 trillion spending package, Defense policy, and voting on different judicial nominees dominate the last annual session of Congress just as the coronavirus pandemic is out of control and the President Donald Trump faces his last weeks in front of the Government.
The most important vote facing Congress is to approve funding from the federal government to avoid its closure before December 11, when the temporary spending bill expires. This is what the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and the leader of the Senate Majority, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, have pledged to do.
However, the strong divisions over a new aid package due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, which has postponed negotiations for months, can be difficult to overcome, although its approval is essential so that companies do not fire to more workers, as well as to pay both state and local governments, in addition to education, among others.
Time also works against legislators, who have had their meeting calendar truncated due to measures taken on Capitol Hill to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Serious and good faith conversations between the legislators of the House of Representatives and the Senate will be necessary to agree on the main points of this bill that has been anchored for months.
Here are the crucial topics for the last session of Congress this year:
Keep the government open
At the very least, lawmakers must give the green light to an interim spending bill, known as a rolling resolution, that would put a $ 1.4 trillion budget up for agencies next year.
Although that is the typical way for Congress to deal with the handover of powers to a new Administration as will happen on January 20, McConnell and Pelosi, two veterans in the budget fight on Capitol Hill, are pushing for a spending package to be approved. general.
However, the battle to reach an agreement that increases the budget by 2%, 12,000 million dollars for the spending program for veterans health care and Trump’s demands for funds for the border wall between the United States and Mexico, they can thwart the intentions of the leaders of both houses.
[Trump presenta el presupuesto para 2021: más dinero para centros de detención y menos para educación y salud]
Should he pass the bill, getting Trump to sign it is another challenge. Two years ago, the president caused a long partial government shutdown due to disagreements over the border wall, but lawmakers from both parties would like to remove the unfinished parts from the proposal and transfer them to the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The change of government would probably not affect a bipartisan agreement much.
Whichever package is approved, there are likely to remain the items that refer to the extension of health care policies and expiring tax provisions and authorization to continue with the Government’s flood insurance program.
Economic relief for COVID-19
Democrats have been trying to negotiate with Republicans and the White House for months for a new economic relief package for COVID-19 that the parties involved say they want to move forward, but the lack of consensus has fueled that aid remains on hold.
McConnell is betting on a smaller, but still sizeable package, and has supplanted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the most important Republican force in the negotiations.
Before the presidential election, Pelosi was in favor of offering a $ 2 trillion bailout but the election results, which saw Democrats lose seats in the House of Representatives, appear to have significantly undermined her position, although she is adamant in granting. another round of aid to state and local governments.
Before the election, Trump appeared to be leaning toward a provision that would issue new checks for $ 1,200 to families. However, he hasn’t shown much interest in the topic since then, aside from a few tweets about it.
The main stumbling blocks now appear to be Pelosi’s demand for aid to state and local governments, as well as McConnell’s request for protection for those companies that reopen during the pandemic.
If a measure is not passed now, funding for vaccines and tests, reopening of schools, various economic “stimulus” ideas such as another round of “paycheck protection” grants for women are at stake. companies especially affected by the pandemic and the issue would be at the top of Biden’s legislative agenda starting next year.
[Biden y Harris ante la gravedad de la crisis económica: “No tenemos ni un momento que perder”]
The dispute over renaming military bases after the names of Confederate officers threatens to undermine the annual budget for Defense policy, which has not encountered obstacles to being approved for 59 years in a row with a bipartisan vote.
The move is critical to US Defense because it guides Pentagon policy and informs decisions about troop numbers, new weapons systems, military readiness, military personnel policy, and other military objectives.
[El Pentágono prohíbe las banderas confederadas en las bases militares y rechaza los “símbolos divisivos”]
The effort to rename bases named after the Confederate leaders of the Civil War, a movement that gained momentum in the context of protests after George Floyd’s death, has antagonized Trump for months and threatens to veto that. Legislation on military policy and Army funding, which was passed by Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.