Senate – The Senate returns this week, with a focus on nominations, reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), COVID-19 relief measures, and extending end-of-year expiring laws. Moreover, Senate Republicans hold their leadership elections Tuesday. Republican leadership is expected to stay the same, with the exception of Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who will take-over the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
On NDAA, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have largely resolved key differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the bill. Leaders of both committees are expected to resolve major policy disagreements and agree to a final product in the coming weeks, with floor votes expected in early December.
After failing to reach an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief package before the election, further debate will continue for the remainder of the year. Several CARES Act-related programs and benefits are expiring at the end of the year. The prospects for stimulus legislation will undoubtedly be tied to the runoff elections of Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on Jan. 5. The outcomes of these races will determine control of the Senate.
While Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has stated his willingness to advance COVID legislation this year, Senate Republicans continue to insist on targeted and fiscally responsible relief for health care, small businesses, enhanced testing, and liability protections. Absent a stand-alone stimulus package, additional funding for some COVID-19 programs is possible in an end-of-year omnibus spending bill.
The continuing resolution keeping the government funded expires on December 11. An agreement on overall spending totals is still needed. House and Senate appropriators have a strong track record of quickly assembling legislative text for floor consideration. Senate Republican appropriators will release text of their proposed FY2021 spending bills this week, which will help spur negotiations. President Trump’s position on a potential omnibus is unclear at the moment. Should talks flounder, another short-term funding extension is possible.
House – The House remains in recess this week. Following the election, Democrats currently control 216 seats while Republicans control 196. Twenty-three House seats remain undecided at this time. No incumbent House Republican lost election this year.
When all of the House elections come to an end, there is a chance that Republicans hold approximately 210 seats. This would create only a slim Democratic majority. As such, Republicans would look to utilize their leverage and potentially form a governing majority, consisting of a unified Republican minority and a handful of moderate Democrats. House Republicans would then almost certainly be necessary for any must-pass legislation under a Biden Administration.
Georgia Senate Runoff – Key dates to follow for Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Senator David Perdue’s (R-GA) contests: