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 McConnellGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' 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 Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE won the White House and control of the Senate is in limbo. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar 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. 

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“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. 

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 ShelbyOn The Money: Sanders: Democrats considering trillion spending package | Weekly jobless claims rise for first time since April Shelby signals GOP can accept Biden's .5T with more for defense Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior 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 TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care 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 HoyerBiden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' House passes political spending, climate change corporate disclosures bill House to vote Wednesday on making Juneteenth a federal holiday MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) are also expected to retain their positions. 

Reps. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi signals no further action against Omar Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing 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 BustosTo reverse the teaching shortage in low-income communities, give educators incentive to stay Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress 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 McCarthyGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment MORE (R-La.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyCheney: 'It is disgusting and despicable' to see Gosar 'lie' about Jan. 6 GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE (R-Wyo.) are all expected to remain in their current positions. 

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Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonRepublicans target Trump critic's role at DOJ GOP votes to dump Cheney from leadership Cheney GOP conference deputy has complained about 'coronation' of Stefanik: report MORE (R-La.), the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is running to succeed outgoing Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Past criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC MORE (R-N.C.) as the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonPharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' Need for national concealed carry reciprocity at all-time high MORE (R-N.C.) is running for the conference secretary. Hudson is expected to succeed Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithGAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal House Democrats to kick off .5 trillion spending process without budget Sunday shows preview: Infrastructure expected to dominate as talks continue to drag 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 MurkowskiCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Trump endorses Murkowski challenger 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. 

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 CollinsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans White House reiterates opposition to raising gas tax amid infrastructure debate MORE (R-Maine) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE (R-Utah) have both said they will oppose her nomination. 

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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 GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-S.C.) announced late last month that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergTexas governor signs ban on outside help for election administrators Hillicon Valley: NATO members agree to new cyber defense policy | YouTube banning politics, elections in masthead ads | 50 groups urge Biden to fill FCC position to reinstate net neutrality rules Pink Floyd's Roger Waters: 'No f---ing way' Zuckerberg can use our song for ad 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.