Coronavirus and Congress

COVID-19

As the coronavirus continues to grow around the world and the number of cases in the US mounts, Congress worked to appropriate $7.8 billion in emergency funding to help combat the disease. The House has passed the bill in a 415-2 vote and the Senate passed it with a 96-1 vote. The bill is expected to be on the President’s desk immediately and he is expected to sign it. This funding comes after the President’s initial request of $2.5 billion ($1.25 Billion in new funding) was widely seen as inadequate. Members of both parties are hopeful that this large appropriation will be enough to contain the virus but are prepared to increase funding if these measures prove insufficient.

Fallout from Reprogramming of Funds

In the wake of the previously reported reprogramming of $3.8 billion by the Trump administration from a variety of defense programs to the border wall, Congress has been predictably frustrated. Senior Members on both sides of the aisle have come out against the decision and have warned that it could result in future restrictions in the Pentagon’s ability to move funds internally without Congressional support. Furthermore, some members of Congress also claim that it undermines the credibility of the Pentagon because of their willingness to take money away from programs previously deemed to be of high importance.

Early FY21 Budget Hearings

Vice President Mike Pence

After two weeks of hearings in the House and Senate on the FY21 budget request, nuclear modernization seems poised to be the greatest challenge. Efforts to replace nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, missiles, and munitions at the same time that the defense budget is scheduled to be flat over the next few years will spark an enormous challenge for lawmakers. The Trump administration requested $705.4 billion for DoD in FY21, a level that fails to keep pace with inflation.

What it Means

COVID-19 and election year politics are compressing what is already a very tight legislative timeline for FY21. While the pace of forward movement is anticipated to be rapid for the coming months, look for the process to bog down in July as the most dominant election issues take center stage – will it be health care, immigration reform, gun legislation, Coronavirus, the economy? Stay tuned.

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