Omnibus Negotiations Underway
On Tuesday, November 10, Senate appropriators released the text of a dozen FY21 spending bills. Congressional leaders are working to pass one big funding bill by the December 11 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown. President Trump has not signaled whether he would sign a new spending bill. These 302(b)s start the negotiation process with the House on a final trillion dollar-plus deal. Appropriators from both Chambers are launching right into negotiations on a massive final package instead of going through markup. One area that Democratic negotiators already want to address is more overall funding for the Labor-HHS-Education measure. Bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the 12 bills shouldn’t be too much of a fight because of FY21 budget caps already in place.
The Senate 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education measure is $195.1 billion - $184.472 billion in base, non-defense discretionary funding, an increase of $1.43 billion. The Department of Labor is allocated $12.2 billion, a decrease of $132 billion with apprenticeship programs receiving a $20 million increase for a total of $195 million. Within the increased funding, $10 million is for the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program. The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service to help expand employment opportunities for veterans and transitioning service members is allocated $316 million, a $5 million increase.
The Department of Education is given $73.2 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $433 million. The legislation prioritizes formula grants that provide the most flexibility for states and school districts to decide how to best use limited resources to meet the educational needs of students and families, including a $125 million increase for Title I grants to school districts and a $125 million increase for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants to states. It also provides Career and Technical Education State Grants with $1.36 billion, a $75 million increase, and increases the maximum Pell grant award from $6,345 to $6,495 for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Below are links to all the Senate 302(b) allocations:
Coronavirus Stimulus Package/Appropriations
Negotiations over a final coronavirus relief package seem to be stalled as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) call on Congress to pass the $3 trillion Heroes Act while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) pushes for legislation with a much lower price tag - closer to $500 billion. Both sides feel the election gave them an upper hand - with Democrats emboldened by Biden’s win and Republicans seeing the Democrats’ poor performance in congressional races as giving their party leverage.
The House came back into session today for Congress’s lame-duck session confronting a number of major problems but lacking clear signals from President Trump — even as President-elect Joe Biden and his team are poised to begin engaging with congressional Democrats on their priorities. Both Pelosi and McConnell have expressed their desire to get a final coronavirus bill passed but the two parties still are far apart on what that final bill should look like.
On Tuesday, November 17, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are poised to be re-elected to their leadership roles. McConnell will continue his streak as the longest serving GOP leader in the Senate and Schumer will be in his third term as leader of his party. For Senate Republican leadership John Thune (SD) is set to be re-elected as whip, John Barrasso (WY) as conference chair, Roy Blunt (MO) as policy committee chair and Joni Ernst (IA) as vice chair of the GOP conference. Senator Rick Scott is running without opposition to lead the GOP campaign arm. For the Democrats Dick Durbin (IL) will serve as whip again, Patty Murray as assistant Democratic leader and Debbie Stabenow (MI) as chair of the policy and communications committee. Democrats will not select a chair of the campaign arm, though newly-elected Senator Ben Ray Lujan (NM) is a possible candidate. Other committee leaders and party rules will be determined at a later date. Republicans are headed into next year with a narrow majority, but if Democrats win two runoff races in Georgia on January 5, 2021, they will take back the majority with a 50-50 Senate and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a tie-breaker vote.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending November 7, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 709,000, a decrease of 48,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 6,000 from 751,000 to 757,000. The 4-week moving average was 755,250, a decrease of 33,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,500 from 787,000 to 788,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.6 percent for the week ending October 31, a decrease of 0.3 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate.
Click here to read the full report.
Click here to read the entire November 16 weekly legislative update.