Pelosi ‘absolutely’ willing to push August recess to work on coronavirus relief

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she will delay the House’s August recess if the time is needed to reach a deal to renew enhanced unemployment benefits and other coronavirus relief expiring at the end of this month.

“We absolutely have to. We also have to come to an agreement. The timetable is the timetable of the American people,” Pelosi said during an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

The House is currently scheduled to be in session during the last two weeks of July before leaving town for the entire month of August. But with the Senate expected to be in session during the first week of August, it’s possible that lawmakers may need to stay in Washington longer to wrap up bipartisan negotiations between the two chambers.

The coronavirus relief law enacted in March provides an extra $600 per week in unemployment insurance, but that expansion is set to expire at the end of July without congressional action.

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package in May that would extend the enhanced unemployment insurance through January. But Senate Republicans and the Trump administration have argued that the $600 weekly benefit disincentivizes people to return to work, with some suggesting a “return to work” bonus or reducing the weekly payments to $400 or less.

The upcoming negotiations are also expected to include fights over providing aid to state and local governments, assistance to help schools cover the costs of reopening in ways that adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families.

Republicans are also pushing for provisions to shield businesses and schools from liability while they reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that he expects the upper chamber will begin working on the next phase of coronavirus relief next week when senators return to Washington.

“I’m predicting we will have one more rescue package, which we’ll begin to debate and discuss next week,” McConnell said during an appearance in Kentucky. “I think you could anticipate this coming to a head sometime within the next three weeks, beginning next week.”

House members are hoping to wrap up work in time for the August break, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged on Monday that it’s possible the timeline could slip.

“[W]e hope that the Senate will act quickly with long-overdue action on the Heroes Act or other legislation to address the impacts of COVID-19 so the House can respond by the end of the week of July 27. Regardless, the House will return, if needed, to do its job whenever required to help Americans get through this crisis,” Hoyer wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Aside from coronavirus relief, Hoyer laid out a packed House floor schedule during the last two weeks of July that’s expected to include votes on government spending bills, authorizing defense programs and removing Confederate statues from the Capitol.

“It is my hope that the House can complete its work on all of these items in a responsible and timely fashion and in a way that does not infringe on Members’ previously scheduled work as part of the August District Work Period,” Hoyer wrote.

Tags CNN Coronavirus coronavirus relief coronavirus stimulus Jim Sciutto Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer Unemployment benefits

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