Democrats Face Key Test Vote on COVID-19 Relief Bill

House Democrats plan to vote as soon as Friday on their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, a key initial hurdle as they race to renew federal unemployment benefits, provide stimulus checks to millions of Americans and inject billions of dollars to speed the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The bill is expected to win narrow House approval this week, then go to the Senate, where its fate is less certain. The legislation faces a complicated procedural gauntlet in the Senate that threatens key provisions, such as increasing the minimum wage nationally to $15 per hour.

Democrats are using a procedural tool called budget reconciliation to pass their COVID-19 package. That process prevents any Republican senator from filibustering the bill and allows Democrats to approve it without GOP votes. But Democrats’ Senate majority is razor thin, as both Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats – only Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote gives Democrats the majority. Continue Reading

Daunting Deadlines: Congress’ To-Do List on Expiring Laws

While Washington is rushing to enact COVID-19 funding before the mid-March expiration of enhanced federal unemployment benefits, lawmakers face a host of upcoming policy deadlines that will require congressional action.

House and Senate Democrats hope to address some of these deadlines in the next coronavirus relief bill, but other provisions will be addressed in other legislation later this year.

The most impactful upcoming deadline could be the summertime expiration of the government’s borrowing authority. If Congress doesn’t approve a higher borrowing limit – the federal debt is nearly $28 trillion today – Washington could face a significant credit crisis that could wallop an economy already struggling to rebound from the pandemic. Continue Reading

Reconciliation Primer: Democrats March Toward COVID-19 Relief Bill

The Senate on Friday took the first step toward advancing filibuster-proof legislation that congressional Democrats hope to enact by mid-March that would include $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief and other policy priorities.

Democrats are using a procedural tool called reconciliation to advance their COVID-19 package. Here’s an overview of the process and Democrats’ plans.


  • The Senate early Friday approved a fiscal year 2021 budget resolution 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris voting to break a tie. Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats in the Senate.
  • In an all-night voting session, the Senate adopted 22 amendments in a process known as a “vote-a-rama.”
  • The budget resolution doesn’t become law – it’s an internal congressional mandate and isn’t sent to the president for his signature. Instead, the budget resolution establishes topline spending numbers in the federal government’s annual budget.
  • But the real purpose of the budget resolution is that it also authorizes a separate budget reconciliation bill, which is unlike typical legislation. What makes a reconciliation bill special is that it cannot be filibustered in the Senate – that means it can pass with a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
  • This is critical for Democrats and their one-vote Senate majority thanks to Harris’ tie-breaking role. Because of the reconciliation process, Democrats can enact their policy priorities without negotiating or compromising with Republicans.
  • Republicans similarly used the reconciliation process for the 2017 tax reform law.

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Congress Grants SEC New Authority in Securities Fraud Cases

Congress voted to give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sweeping new authority to prosecute violations by creating a 10-year statute of limitations for the agency to seek disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from securities fraud.

A 1934 law had limited the SEC to seek disgorgement as a civil remedy only in administrative proceedings. But the new law allows the SEC to pursue ill-gotten gains in federal court.

The SEC provision is buried in an unrelated $740 billion defense reauthorization bill that Congress approved in December. President Donald Trump vetoed that underlying bill, but lawmakers overrode that veto, paving the way for the legislation – and its SEC language – to become law Jan. 1.

Click here for an in-depth BakerHostetler analysis of the new law and SEC’s new authority.

2021 BakerHostetler Congressional Calendar

Congressional leaders finalized the 2021 legislative calendar, which lists the days during the year when the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session, as well as days when House committees are scheduled to hold hearings but with no floor votes scheduled.

Click here to download your ready-to-print, one-page combination House and Senate calendar for 2021. Suitable for hanging on your wall all year long!

Congress Targets $2.3 Trillion COVID-19 Relief, Government Funding Package

Congress is scheduled to wrap up legislative business only days before Christmas by voting on a $2.3 trillion package of COVID-19 relief and government spending amid reports that coronavirus infections are spiking nationwide and as the first vaccines are being distributed.

The legislation – the product of furious last-minute negotiations that stalled passage for days – includes a mix of tax credits and direct cash payments, with nearly $1 trillion in COVID-related spending to address the still-wobbly economy and aid frontline healthcare workers.

In classic Washington fashion, the legislation mushroomed to more than 5,000 pages and included a host of non-COVID provisions –most notably, avoiding a government shutdown by including $1.3 trillion to fund federal programs until next fall. Continue Reading

What Happens If… Potential Election Outcomes and What They Could Mean

Election Day could produce massive changes in Washington and in the policies that would affect every American and every company. Even a status quo election could produce lasting regulatory consequences for key stakeholders. Just days before the 2020 election ends (maybe!), BakerHostetler’s Federal Policy team offers quick takes on the most likely scenarios and what they could mean for you.

Read more.

COVID-19 Legislative Response Phase 4

Congress in March approved three separate major bills responding to the COVID-19 pandemic – and work was not even finished on the third and largest bill before lawmakers began considering a possible “Phase 4” of the legislative response.

The House and Senate are currently not planning any legislative activity before April 20, unless events dictate otherwise. But work is already underway on ideas for Phase 4, with an eye toward late April for potential passage.

The Phase 3 bill is frequently called a “stimulus” but in reality its purpose was to stabilize the economy and prevent total collapse as businesses shut down and jobs vanish. Phase 4 is envisioned to pivot from stabilizing the economy to stimulating growth – from disaster mitigation to recovery. Continue Reading

COVID-19 Update: Congress’ Risk to Public Companies

Companies large and small are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including understanding the emerging economic risks that could affect their profits, their operations and even their very existence.

Add another burden to public companies’ growing roster of risks: Congress.

As lawmakers and the Trump administration prepare additional legislative responses to the crisis, there is a growing danger that extraneous items affecting public companies could be slipped into the bills.

The White House and congressional leaders are racing to approve what is likely to exceed $1 trillion in aid for displaced workers, the airline and tourism industries, healthcare providers, and more. But some lawmakers are looking to exploit the crisis to ensure non-coronavirus provisions affecting public businesses become law, too. Continue Reading

COVID-19 Update: $1 Trillion Stimulus Next Up

The Senate is beginning to draft what likely will be the largest emergency relief and fiscal stimulus legislation in the country’s history – more than $1 trillion – to address the mushrooming coronavirus pandemic.

The heart of the emerging plan will be as much as $500 billion in rebate checks to individuals and households, likely means-tested to target the relief to middle-class Americans. The White House is pushing for checks to go out as soon as April 6, with a second check on May 18.

That package also is expected to include tens of billions of dollars in relief for the airline industry and other sectors, a loan program for small businesses, and more funding for state Medicaid expansion, unemployment benefits and paid sick leave.

It’s not clear when Congress will vote on this still-developing package. The Republican-controlled Senate is working through elements with the White House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will need Democrats’ support for any aid package, which would require 60 votes in the Senate. Continue Reading