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Congress Has A Lot Of Business To Take Care Of Before Fall Election


Senators are back in Washington, D.C., after their August recess with a lot to get done. Congress needs an agreement to fund the government to avoid a shutdown at the end of this month, and the next round of coronavirus relief has been stuck. But on their first day back, there is some movement from the Senate. And NPR's congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following it.

Hey, Kelsey.


KING: So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced something today. What'd he announce?

SNELL: Well, he says that the Senate will vote this week on a new GOP-written aid bill. He says it's pretty targeted. He says it's focused on health care, schools and economic issues. But he really didn't give any additional details. He also didn't say how much money the bill will include, and those are not exactly little details 'cause this is a process that's been going on for months. And the entire holdup over these past few months has been a disagreement among Republicans about the details on the price tag (laughter).

KING: (Laughter) OK.

SNELL: They've been unable to reach a consensus amongst themselves since March. They've notably not been able to offer a bill that could pass with the support of the majority of their members. But President Trump has been blaming Democrats for the holdup.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They don't want to make a deal because they think that if the country does as badly as possible, even though a lot of people are being hurt, that's good for the Democrats.

SNELL: But Democrats say they've already budged a lot and they simply want more aid. They are now at a figure of about $2 trillion, which is down from the $3.2 trillion that they passed out of the House in May. And so we're waiting to hear from Republicans if this bill that is coming out this week will create a unified stance for Republicans so that they can actually have two clear positions to negotiate from.

KING: OK. So that's COVID relief. And then there is a potential government shutdown at the end of the month.

SNELL: Right. And we do know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been talking about this specifically. You know, they're the most important players here because Mnuchin has been one of the main representatives from the White House. They have more or less agreed that they don't want a government shutdown. They want a simple extension of current funding levels for a short period of time without any changes. Now, the question is how long that's going to last and whether or not coronavirus relief could be somehow packaged together with this or next to this. And those are kind of, again, details that matter because they change, you know, the outcome of the negotiations.

KING: Let me ask you about a last thing. So Congress has been investigating the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, for changes that he made to the Postal Service. And then the president said yesterday that DeJoy should be investigated for campaign finance violations and, the president said, lose his job if he's done something wrong. What is up with Louis DeJoy (laughter) in Congress right now?

SNELL: So the comments from the president yesterday were about a Washington Post report that DeJoy pressured employees to make political donations and then reimbursed them with bonuses, which, if that's true, it would be illegal. Now, The Washington Post is also reporting that House Democrats are adding that - the whole question of these political donations - to their list of investigations of DeJoy.

Now, DeJoy's already testified before Congress twice. And he has denied that he was responsible for any slowdowns in mail processing, and he's defended the agency. But Democrats continue to insist that DeJoy's actions are politically motivated. He was a major Trump donor, and Democrats are trying to look into his communications and his emails. They've actually subpoenaed some of those records to try to figure out how DeJoy's making decisions as the new postmaster general.

KING: Congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.