The effort to stave off a shutdown less than six weeks before Election Day comes as the looming brawl over filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death has further intensified partisan rancor on Capitol Hill.
Congress will ultimately have to return in a lame-duck session, the period between Election Day and the chamber’s adjournment at the end of the year, and approve the annual must-pass legislation needed to fund the government. Democrats had initially pushed to extend the short-term legislation into February, in the hopes that their party would capture the White House and Senate and be able to negotiate more favorable deals under a new president and Congress. But Republicans refused.
Democrats also agreed to exclude provisions that would have provided additional funds for election security and extended critical deadlines for the U.S. census to submit redistricting data.
The measure would prevent furloughs at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services by allowing the agency, which has seen a loss in revenue in part because of the pandemic, to raise premium processing fees. It would also extend funding for a flood insurance program through next September, as well as funding for a program for highway construction and maintenance.
The bill also included language that would prevent Medicare recipients from seeing a significant increase in their premiums partly because of measures taken by the administration to counter the effects of the pandemic. But it did not include any additional relief to help American families and businesses recover from the toll of the pandemic, despite growing pressure from rank-and-file members for negotiators to break a stalemate on a broader legislative package.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers urged their party leaders on Tuesday to keep the House in session until Congress approved another pandemic relief bill, writing in a letter that “our constituents do not want us home campaigning while businesses continue to shutter.”
“It has been suggested by some that members of Congress are anxious to return to their districts to campaign in advance of the Nov. 3 election, even if that means leaving Capitol Hill without passing another Covid-19 relief bill,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Representative Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine. “We want to be very clear that we do not in any way agree with this position.”
A handful of moderate Democrats are also considering signing onto a Republican-led effort that would, if it gained the support of 218 lawmakers, force a vote on legislation to revive a popular federal loan program for small businesses, according to a person familiar with the plans, who requested anonymity to disclose details of private discussions.
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.