OMNIBUS COULD INCLUDE CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS
Less than two weeks before Congress takes its Christmas Recess; House plans to adjourn on December 17. CR ends December 11 -- in 4 days
Appropriations/Coronavirus Stimulus Package
Congress could potentially pass a short, weeklong, stopgap to avoid a government shutdown when current funding runs out this Friday, December 11. If lawmakers can’t finalize an omnibus deal in the next few days the options are either a long stopgap, which would go until March, or a short one in order to potentially finalize a final coronavirus stimulus package and nail down final details of the omnibus. According to a House Democratic aide, a one-week stopgap is more likely while negotiators continue to work on a full-year spending bill to which coronavirus economic relief would be attached.
Lawmakers are eager to wrap up their work to limit the possibility of the virus spreading in the Capitol as they travel from all over the country and congregate on the House and Senate floors.
On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) spoke about a strategy for passing legislation in the coming days to both fund the government and provide COVID-19 economic relief, and they agreed that more relief should be bundled into the $1.4 trillion FY21 omnibus. A bipartisan group of moderate Senate and House members have been working on a $908 billion compromise aid proposal that would reauthorize the small business Paycheck Protection Program and offer roughly $300 in extra federal weekly unemployment benefits. It would also “extend a freeze on evictions for people who cannot pay their rent.” The proposal is significantly smaller than the $3 trillion bill passed by the House in May and would not include nearly as much funding for state and local governments. It also wouldn’t include another round of direct cash payments to Americans. Last week, President Trump indicated that he would sign a bill if passed by Congress.
Labor Secretary President-elect Joe Biden has yet to announce his nomination for Secretary of the Department of Labor but the field of potential candidates seems to be growing. Entering the potential candidate pool is Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama. Gaspard is stepping down as president of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, which many speculate is because he is joining the Biden administration.
H-1B Visas On Tuesday, December 1, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to limit legal immigration, vacating new restrictions on H-1B high-skilled foreign worker visas that were expected to affect a third of applications to the program. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White found that the administration didn't take enough time to consider the changes or seek public comment on the rules, which would have made it harder for businesses to obtain high-skilled foreign employees and would raise the wages H-1B workers must be paid. Judge White also felt the Administration failed to back up its claim that COVID-19’s impact on the labor market would justify eliminating the ‘due deliberation’ that normally accompanies rulemaking. The ruling is a win for business groups, which have challenged President Donald Trump's moves to use the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment as justification to quickly curb legal immigration.
On Friday, December 4, the Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the jobs report for the month of November, which indicated that the U.S. economy added a meager 245,000 jobs last month - the slowest month of growth since spring and a warning for the recovery in the months to come as infections grow across the country. The unemployment rate dipped slightly from 6.9 to 6.7 percent, but the decrease was due to a large number of workers leaving the labor force - 560,000 people reported they were not actively looking for work or were unavailable to take a job within the last four weeks. One of the most alarming signals, according to economists, is the decelerating job growth. November’s numbers are well short of the rebound in May and June, when businesses added 2.7 million and 4.8 million jobs, respectively. The U.S. is still 10 million jobs shy of its pre-pandemic level. According to the report, some 7.1 million people were out of work and said they wanted a job.
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Click here to read the entire December 7 weekly legislative update.