ILTA Monthly Newsletter

President’s COVID Bombshell, Supreme Court Fight, Election Stifle Legislative Action

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The bombshell announcement that President Trump had contracted COVID-19 – and the implications for the upcoming presidential election – took the air out of Washington last week, leaving little room for legislative action. On top of the that news, Congress was already reeling when it was announced that the president and Senate Republicans would rush to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court after her unexpected death in September.

This is bad news for Americans citizens and businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic, as there’s little chance of action on a new COVID-19 bill before the election. Still, there is potential for an additional coronavirus relief bill in the lame duck session. House Democrats passed a new version of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in a party-line vote on October 1, while Senate Democrats blocked a $500 billion “skinny” proposal from Republicans earlier in September.

It is unlikely that the House version will pass the Senate as is, but there are signs that a compromise between the two chambers can be found.

In one positive development, President Trump on September 30 signed legislation passed by both the House and the Senate to keep the government funded through the end of 2020. Funding was set to expire October 1, but Democrats and Republicans were able to work quickly in the week leading up to the end date to pass a continuing resolution. After the election, appropriators must vote to approve fiscal 2021 spending bills during a lame-duck session or pass another short-term deal to keep the government funded in 2021.

For ILTA’s priority issues, there is a still a strong chance that the House and Senate will pass a new Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, but that’s unlikely until after the election. The House in late July passed a bill authorizing about $9 billion for Army Corps of Engineers flood and storm protection, environmental restoration and harbor, port and inland waterway projects. In the Senate, the WRDA bill is one of two water infrastructure measures that the Environment and Public Works Committee cleared unanimously on May 6. It has $5.1 billion for 26 Corps projects. But the bill has yet to come up for a Senate vote.

With time running short before Congress breaks for the Nov. 3 elections, it is looking increasingly likely that water infrastructure legislation may be put off until an expected lame duck session.

ILTA supported both the House and Senate bills, which provide near-record funding for ports, harbors and inland waterways and make more equitable the spending mechanism for using funds under harbor and inland waterway trust funds.


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