Congress back for shortened session, McConnell says Senate will vote on coronavirus relief package

Congress, White House appear to have a tentative agreement on a continuing resolution to avoid a potential government shutdown.

Updated: September 8, 2020 - 11:30am

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Members of Congress return Tuesday to Capitol Hill after their annual August recess amid little expectation that they will pass another coronavirus stimulus package, with the pandemic now nearly six months long.

Democrats and Republicans, led by a White House negotiating team, appear steadfast in their positions in the hyper-political homestretch of the presidential race. 

The Democrat-controlled House passed its measure in May and has been willing to bargain on a final price, but no less than $2.2 trillion. They argue that President Trump and Senate Republicans, at risk of losing their majority, won't help Americans struggling in the pandemic-created recession.

Republicans, led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have held fast at roughly $1 trillion, raising concerns about running up debt before Election Day, as the economy makes a steady recovery. 

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that his chamber will vote as early as this week on a "new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues."

Expected to be less than the $1 trillion Republicans offered in late June, the measure is  likely to be rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the negotiations for Democrats.

Trump said Monday that Democrats "don't want to make a deal because they think that if the country does as badly as possible ... that's good for the Democrats," according to the Associated Press.

Congress this spring passed a roughly $3 trillion, bipartisan stimulus package. But some of the benefits, including enhanced federal unemployment money, is expiring.

However, both sides have agreed to pass a continuing resolution free of contentious riders. The agreement is meant to avert a government shutdown later this month,

The Senate returns Tuesday, and the House returns next week, in a fall session abbreviated by the November elections that is not expected to include any major legislative initiatives.

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