House and Senate Advance Coronavirus Relief Legislation through Budget Reconciliation Process

The Senate, in the early morning of February 5, passed a budget resolution containing coronavirus relief provisions. The resolution passed by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. After passing the Senate, the budget resolution was taken up by the House, which passed the Senate-amended resolution the same day by a vote of 219-209.

The Senate’s vote came after a 15-hour “vote-a-rama,” a process in which senators have up to 20 hours to debate amendments to the budget resolution. Senate Republicans filed over 400 amendments, many of which were not relevant to the resolution – a violation of the “germaneness rule” that governs the budget resolution process – but were used to get Senate Democrats on the record for supporting supposedly controversial measures, like allowing undocumented immigrants to access coronavirus relief.

Senators adopted an amendment proposed by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) limiting access to coronavirus relief for immigrants with taxpayer identification numbers. A list of the amendments adopted by the Senate can be found here.

With both chambers having adopted identical budget resolutions, Congressional leaders will now begin the process of drafting the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, the next step in the budget reconciliation process. The House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal housing and community development programs, received a topline funding number of $75 billion. The Committee announced on February 5 that the bill will include $25 billion in rental assistance including: $19.05 billion for emergency rental assistance (ERA); $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers; $750 million for tribal housing needs; and $100 million for rural housing. The bill also provides $5 billion to assist people who are homeless with immediate and longer-term assistance, $9.96 billion for homeowner assistance, and $100 million for housing counseling. The House Financial Services Committee will vote on the bill this week.

Once committees vote on its respective bills, they will then move to the House and Senate Budget Committees, which will compile the sections into a larger omnibus package and hold another vote before the bills are introduced in the House and Senate for a full floor vote. Under budget reconciliation, the legislation will need only 51 votes to pass the Senate, as opposed to the usual 60. Congressional leaders and the White House aim to enact the relief legislation before March 14, when expanded unemployment assistance is set to expire.