This week: Clock ticks on coronavirus, government funding deals
© Greg Nash

Congress is facing a tight timeline to fund the government and try to clinch a long-sought deal on a fifth coronavirus deal as they seek to wrap up their work for the year. 

The House will return on Monday for the first time since the election and is currently scheduled to leave Washington for the year on Dec. 10. Both chambers — the Senate returned last week — will be out of town next week for the Thanksgiving recess. 

That gives lawmakers just 15 working days before the House is poised to leave again to finish its legislative to-do list, while also grappling with the lingering fallout from the November elections and laying the groundwork for January and the incoming Biden administration. 

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Congress has two major items left to finish: funding the government and trying to get a deal on a coronavirus relief bill as cases climb across the country and some cities and states reimpose restrictions to try to stop the spread. 

Both sides say they want a deal on a relief bill. But while it's still relatively early in the lame-duck session, there's no clear path at the moment to a deal, despite the steep economic and health consequences. 

Both congressional Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general Trump to attend private RNC donor retreat The Patriot Party already exists — it's the Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) are signaling that they believe they have leverage in any negotiations coming out of the November elections — where Democrats lost seats in the House, President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE won the White House and control of the Senate is in limbo. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCongress holds candlelight vigil for American lives lost to COVID-19 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers investigate Jan. 6 security failures Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador MORE (N.Y.) view the $2.2 trillion bill that passed the House in early October as the "starting point" for any year-end negotiations. They also spoke with Biden on the phone late last week, where they reiterated that they want a deal on coronavirus relief this year that would include things like more help for state and local governments. 

But McConnell, who is taking over the reins from the administration in any negotiations with Democrats, says Republicans want a bill similar to the $500 billion previously blocked by Senate Democrats, underscoring the deep gap that remains even at the macro level over the price tag of the bill. 

“My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October. Highly targeted at what the residual problems are,” McConnell told reporters. 

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He warned that the “dramatically larger” figure being pushed by Schumer and Pelosi is “not a place I think we’re willing to go.” 

Muddying the waters further, Trump tweeted over the weekend that there needed to be a deal that was "big and focused," two seemingly contradictory ideas. 

Lawmakers have floated for months that they could merge a coronavirus deal, if they could get one, with a bill to fund the government. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyPowell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Former Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - COVID-19 rescue bill a unity test for Dems MORE (R-Ala.) spoke late last week with Pelosi about funding the government, with Senate Republicans indicating that they feel relatively positive about being able to wrap up all 12 government funding bills by the end of the year. 

Part of what is feeding the optimism among Republicans is a belief that Democrats believe it would be more beneficial to wrap up the government funding work this year so Biden isn’t automatically pulled into a fight over it within the first weeks of his administration. 

Congress has until Dec. 11 to fund the government. One question looming over any talks is whether President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE, fuming over his election loss, will sign anything beyond a continuing resolution, a short-term bill that would fund the government until early next year at fiscal 2020 levels. 

“I had a nice talk with Speaker Pelosi yesterday about all this, and we could go forward and, you know, cooperating. She said she'd like to get these bills done,” Shelby said. 

House leadership elections

Democrats are slated to hold the majority of their House leadership elections on Wednesday and Thursday, while Republicans are scheduled to hold theirs on Tuesday. 

While moderate Democrats voiced frustrations with a number of front-line members losing their reelection bids, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is currently running unopposed to retain her gavel. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday On The Money: Biden faces backlash from left on student loans | Where things stand on the COVID-19 relief measure | Retail sales rebound The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden navigates pressures from Dems MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) are also expected to retain their positions. 

Reps. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line This week: House to vote on Biden's .9 trillion coronavirus bill Biden urges swift passage of Equality Act MORE (D-R.I.) are slated to face off for the position of assistant Speaker, a role that is being vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who was recently elected to the Senate. 

Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) have launched bids to head the House Democrats’ campaign arm after current Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Republican campaign arm rolls out target list for midterms Lobbying world Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote MORE (D-Ill.) announced she would not seek another term in the position shortly after the Nov. 3 elections. The election to succeed Bustos as chair will take place on Nov. 30. 

Democrats are expected to cast their secret ballots virtually, with candidates addressing the caucus via video call and members using an app to vote in an effort to provide a safer process amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTrump to attend private RNC donor retreat Former RNC chair to Republicans looking for new Trump party: 'There's the door' Lawmakers propose draft bill to create Capitol riot commission MORE (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFeehery: How Republicans can win by focusing on schools Former RNC chair to Republicans looking for new Trump party: 'There's the door' This week: House to vote on Biden's .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (R-La.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse GOP warns Biden against lifting sanctions on Iran Cheney rejects Trump's 'America First' foreign policy as dangerous isolationism Liz Cheney: GOP must not 'trivialize' gravity of Capitol riot MORE (R-Wyo.) are all expected to remain in their current positions. 

Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonCassidy defends vote to proceed with Trump trial after GOP backlash Cassidy calls Trump attorneys 'disorganized' after surprise vote House Democrats renew push for checks on presidential pardons MORE (R-La.), the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is running to succeed outgoing Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerNorth Carolina GOP condemns Burr for impeachment vote against Trump Madison Cawthorn throws support behind Mark Walker in NC Senate primary Democrat Jeff Jackson jumps into North Carolina Senate race MORE (R-N.C.) as the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonNew Democratic super PAC to target swing-district Republicans over vote to overturn election The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear MORE (R-N.C.) is running for the conference secretary. Hudson is expected to succeed Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithHouse panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill On The Money: House panel spars over GameStop, Robinhood | Manchin meets with advocates for wage | Yellen says go big, GOP says hold off GOP highlights unspent relief funds in criticizing Biden plan MORE (R-Mo.), who is seeking to become the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, in the position. 

Nominations

Senate Republicans appear poised to confirm Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve board after keeping her nomination in limbo for months.

McConnell’s decision to tee up Shelton’s nomination comes after Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKoch-backed group launches ads urging lawmakers to reject COVID-19 relief bill Biden health nominee faces first Senate test White House stands behind Tanden as opposition mounts MORE (R-Alaska) said she would support Shelton’s nomination, and GOP senators disclosed that leadership had been discussing confirming her as soon as this month. 

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Shelton’s nomination has been stuck for months because of bipartisan opposition sparked by her previous support for returning to the gold standard and using inflation as a tool to make U.S. exports more competitive. Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMicrosoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill MORE (R-Maine) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears MORE (R-Utah) have both said they will oppose her nomination. 

In addition to Shelton, McConnell has set up votes on Benjamin Beaton’s nomination to be judge for the Western District of Kentucky, Toby Crouse to be a judge for the District of Kansas, Kathryn Mizelle to be a judge for the Middle District of Florida, Taylor McNeel to be judge for the Southern District of Mississippi and Stephen Vaden to be a judge for the U.S. Court of International Trade. 

Big Tech hearing

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Senate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump MORE (R-S.C.) announced late last month that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Companies urge action at SolarWinds hearing | Facebook lifts Australian news ban | Biden to take action against Russia in 'weeks' House Democrats press Facebook on role as a 'breeding ground for polarization' Facebook, Google, Twitter CEOs to testify at House hearing on misinformation MORE will testify before the committee on Tuesday.

Dorsey and Zuckerberg previously testified late last month before the Senate Commerce Committee — Google’s Sundar Pichai also testified — and fielded partisan questions amid fresh concerns about their content moderation decisions. 

Graham is expected to focus the hearing on the platforms’ handling of the 2020 elections and a recent New York Post article that Twitter initially prevented the spread of on its platform.