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December 17, 2020

This report is from your government affairs team at The Council. 

For each of the past several days, it seemed as though we were hours away from a breakthrough on the year-end spending deal and a COVID relief package – together, more than $2 trillion in spending. While we would have preferred to deliver a report on what provisions are included, it appears that Congress will be working through the weekend.

Much is at risk, including a revised PPP plan, as well as potential major provisions on surprise medical billing.

On the PPP, the latest draft/outline included:

  • Opening the program for another round for smaller borrowers (300 or fewer employees);
  • Making it even easier to get forgiveness for loans under $150K
  • Expanding “forgivable expenses” to include PPE and modifications to physical spaces to comply with COVID orders; and
  • The tax fix – allowing businesses to deduct the expenses that are forgiven.  This provision, especially remains under scrutiny with many congressional Democrats arguing it’s an unjust giveaway.

On surprise billing, congressional leaders appear to be splitting the baby between the provider-friendly arbitration approach to resolution, and the insurer/employer-friendly benchmark approach. It likely means that no one will be completely happy. We will report in much greater detail if and when such a deal is included in the year-end deal.

Finally, we will cite Politico’s Anna Palmer for the following report:

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, Washington’s Most Eager Man Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN and Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER spoke around 10:30 on Wednesday night, per DREW HAMMILLPELOSI’S deputy chief of staff. “All three emphasized the urgency to reaching an immediate agreement and will exchange additional paper and resume conversations in the morning,” HAMMILL tweeted.

THERE IS A LOT of optimism here. PELOSI said upon leaving the Capitol, “I think we’re in good shape but a lot of writing goes into it.” Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL said “we’re still close and we’re going to get there.” Of course, nothing’s done until it’s done.

YOU MAY BE ASKING why they started these talks Tuesday — just a few days ahead of the deadline. House Majority Leader STENY HOYER — a 40-year veteran of the House — put it this way: “Why this takes so long is because we procrastinate, and we pretend, just one more day and we’ll get a better deal. And it’s frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for everybody, but that’s what happens.” Indeed, Steny. Indeed.”

We will continue to keep you apprised.