The Political Report 3/24/20

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: COVID-19 Besieges the Capitol

In the past two weeks, the exponential growth of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has shifted from being an item of concern in Washington to consuming the Congress entirely. As the number of citizens with the disease grows by leaps and bounds, the House and the Senate are desperately seeking to come to agreement around a major stimulus bill (approximately $1.6 trillion). While very little of this will directly impact the Department of Defense (though there will be roughly $10-15 billion in supplemental funding), the potential impact on the broader economy and the aerospace industry could be huge. Let’sl quickly recap the state of play and discuss what comes next.

Over the weekend, the Senate attempted to take up consideration of a stimulus bill following negotiations between Democratic and Republican Senators. The negotiations had been fruitful, but the legislation that was brought forward had not been approved by Democrats and was blocked. Complicating matters, four Republican Senators are in self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19, and one, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, has been diagnosed with the disease.

As of Monday morning, the Senate was still looking for a path forward on a stimulus bill. It is unclear if they will be able to reach an agreement before the House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to move forward on her own bill. Unlike the Senate, the House can pass a partisan bill, but it is unclear if the Senate and White House would go along with such a measure.

Underlying the dispute are a series of issues around requirements placed on corporations taking assistance, transparency and authority for making award decisions, and a handful of policy priorities that both sides are arguing over.

Alongside all of this, the Congress is grappling with whether it should adopt remote voting. Four members have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a number that is certain to increase over the next couple of weeks. Given the advanced age of most members, social distancing seems crucial for their sustained health. While both chambers have resisted the push for remote voting in the past, this could change relatively soon.

All of this will almost certainly have knock-on effects on the Congressional calendar. In the next few weeks, we will likely see major delays in the National Defense Authorization Act and appropriations processes in both chambers. Additionally, should the crisis continue into the summer or fall, the possibility of additional supplementals cannot be discounted. We will continue to provide updates on this as we learn more.

House Activity

The House is looking to pass a supplemental bill to help support the economy during the crisis.

Senate Activity

The Senate is looking to pass a supplemental bill to help support the economy during the crisis.

Congressional Defense Activity

  •  HFAC
    • No hearings for this week
  • SFRC
    • No hearings for this week
  • SASC
    • 3/26 “Posture of the Department of the Army,” Full Committee Hearing, Room Unannounced, 930am (Likely to be postponed)
  •  HASC
    • No hearings for this week
  •  SAC-D
    • No hearings for this week
  •  HAC-D
    • No hearings for this week
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