Congressional Leaders Announce Intent to Begin Budget Reconciliation Process for Coronavirus Relief Package

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled on January 28 they would begin putting together a “shell” budget resolution with reconciliation instructions for the next coronavirus relief package. The House is expected to introduce its resolution today (February 1), with the goal of beginning committee markups by the week of February 8.

The budget resolution is expected to contain topline funding numbers for relevant committees, with total funding not exceeding the $1.9 trillion over 10 years established in President Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal. Majority Leader Schumer stated the Senate would begin the process of drafting its budget resolution with reconciliation instructions as early as this week. The Senate resolution would likely match the House resolution, to avoid the laborious process of merging two disparate bills. Using budget reconciliation would allow the aid package to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes rather than the 60 votes typically required in the chamber.

Despite preparing for reconciliation, top Democrats in Congress maintain that they still hope to reach bipartisan agreement. A group of 10 Republican senators plan to unveil a $600 billion relief proposal this week, outlining their opening bid for a possible bipartisan agreement. If all 10 Republicans agree to a COVID relief bill, the legislation could pass under regular order rather than using the budget reconciliation process. It is unclear, however, whether congressional leaders will engage in bipartisan negotiations; the Republican proposal is significantly smaller in scope than President Biden’s plan, and it reduces funding for several top Democratic priorities, including state and local aid, direct stimulus checks, and unemployment insurance.

Any COVID relief package must include essential housing and homelessness resources, including NLIHC’s top priorities: an extended, strengthened and enforced eviction moratorium; $30 billion in emergency rental and utility assistance to help eliminate back rent owed by renters; $28 in housing vouchers to ensure continued housing stability; $6 billion to prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness; and $44 billion to help transition individuals living in non-congregate shelter to permanent housing, rather than to allow them to be pushed back into homelessness.

Congressional negotiators and the president aim to pass the relief bill before March 14, when expanded unemployment benefits from the last relief package expire.