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Survey: Hill aides don’t expect Congress to pass another virus relief bill before election

Staffers also see no need to give ground in aid debate, latest Capitol Insiders Survey found

Majorities of congressional aides in both parties don’t expect their bosses to pass a virus relief bill before Election Day, according to the latest Capitol Insiders Survey.
Majorities of congressional aides in both parties don’t expect their bosses to pass a virus relief bill before Election Day, according to the latest Capitol Insiders Survey. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress, theoretically, has until lawmakers return to their districts and states in the coming days for the campaign recess to pass another coronavirus relief bill before Election Day.

But according to CQ Roll Call’s latest Capitol Insiders Survey of congressional aides, lawmakers might as well pack it in now.

A majority of respondents on both sides, 78 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, said they did not expect Congress to pass another relief measure before the election.

The lack of urgency, and unwillingness to compromise, might seem callous in light of the continuing suffering in the country, where more than 200,000 have now died from COVID-19 and some 25 million continue to collect state and other unemployment benefits. 

But it also demonstrates that Congress has moved on to politics with cold-blooded rationality.

CQ Roll Call emailed the poll to aides on Sept. 14 and they had until Sept. 22 to respond. Of the 132 who did, 67 identified themselves as Democrats, 64 as Republicans and one as an independent.

Nearly two-thirds of the Democratic aides said they expected the virus to redound to their party’s benefit on Election Day, while a majority of Republicans predicted either that they will benefit, or that the virus will not affect how people vote.

The aides were mostly sanguine about what Congress has done so far, with a plurality rating Congress’ efforts to combat the virus as effective, and a narrow majority offering the same assessment of Congress’ relief for Americans who’ve lost income because of the virus and the lockdowns used to restrain its spread. Republican staffers gave Congress slightly higher ratings than Democratic ones.

With a little more than a month to go until Election Day, aides of both parties are feeling positive about their prospects. Despite polls showing both Trump and the Senate GOP majority in jeopardy, most Republican aides who filled out the poll said they expected Trump to win and the Senate to remain in their party’s control. It was not close, with 69 percent forecasting Trump’s reelection, and 88 percent a GOP Senate in 2021. (Notably, only 8 percent thought the Republicans would win back the House.)

Meanwhile, most of the Democratic aides, 86 percent, predicted that Joe Biden would beat Trump, while almost every one of them, 97 percent, foresees Democrats retaining the House. A plurality of 48 percent said they’d also win enough seats take over the Senate.

That being the case, the aides said they saw no need to give ground in the virus debate, in which Democrats are pushing for much more spending on aid to states and localities and rental and nutrition assistance, while Republicans want to limit the spending mainly to aid to schools and unemployment relief. 

Three in five Democratic aides said it would have to be the Republicans who offer more in a compromise deal, while nearly seven in 10 Republicans said it was up to the Democrats to move toward them.

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