Congress Narrows Focus to Supreme Court, Elections in October
Congressional activity in Washington narrowed in October as Senate Republicans focused on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attempted to negotiate a COVID-19 relief package. At the same time, many members of Congress were preoccupied with their own reelection races as well as the presidential election.
The Senate confirmed Justice Barrett on October 26 to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court after a 58-48 vote, in which all Republicans but Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough battle for reelection, supported her.
On the COVID-19 relief bill, Pelosi and Mnuchin at press time were trying to reach terms on a nearly $2 trillion aid package before election day. The relief package would include another stimulus payment for many Americans, resumption of federal unemployment benefits, money to help support cash-strapped states and localities, and funding for coronavirus testing, tracing and treatment.
At issue, however, were the specific funding levels for state and local governments and for federal unemployment. The White House and House Democrats were also at odds over: payroll support for small businesses and airline workers; housing assistance, including more eviction protections; support for the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Census; liability protections for business; and funding for schools and childcare.
Even if the White House and the House Speaker can reach a deal, it would be up to the White House to convince Senate Republicans to support the measure, with many already having expressed concern about the stimulus package's price tag. Chances for a swift relief bill were slim, but many Washington insiders are hopeful a deal can be reached in the lame-duck session following the election but before new members of Congress are seated.