Glad there is SOME movement on this front - people need help right now, but is far too slimmed down and more Republican very limited help. Dems will not be thrilled by it.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a coronavirus aid proposal worth about $908 billion on Tuesday, aiming to break a months-long partisan impasse over providing emergency federal relief to the U.S. economy and the ongoing pandemic response.
The new plan came amid a flurry of congressional jostling about the shape of economic relief, with House Democrats assembling a new proposal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) creating a new plan, and President-elect Joe Biden calling for a massive government response. The growing calls for action - so far - have not rallied behind a unified approach, which has prompted the political leaders to forge ahead in different directions.
Still, the new actions and statements on Tuesday may reflect movement toward some level of pandemic relief for millions of Americans. Congress has faced increasing pressure to approve additional economic aid since talks between the White House and House Democrats collapsed, first over the summer and then again in the fall ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Senate Republican leaders, though, circulated a slimmed down plan Tuesday that would likely be fiercely opposed by Democrats. The measure includes a liability shield for businesses and more small business assistance. It would provide short-term, limited jobless aid but no additional funding for state and local governments or help for cash-strapped transit agencies.
The plan represented a conservative turn from the Senate Republican leader follow the defeat of Trump, who had pushed the GOP to support more spending ahead of his election. In September, McConnell pushed a federal supplement of unemployment benefits of $300 per week. The latest proposal from his office would for about one month extend base unemployment benefits and a program for gig workers and independent contractors, but would otherwise not provide supplemental federal unemployment benefits — a reversal in Republicans’ positions. A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a question about the change.
The McConnell bill also reintroduces a Republican plan to allow diners to claim a tax deduction on their meal expenditures, a provision pushed by the business lobby but viewed skeptically by economists and even some Republicans.
Coronavirus stimulus: Lawmakers unveil $908 billion bipartisan relief proposal
A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion stimulus plan on Dec. 1, in an attempt to break through partisan gridlock after months of failed relief negotiations.
Lawmakers and the White House are facing growing pressure to pass additional coronavirus relief as COVID-19 cases surge, states and cities put more restrictions in place and existing relief programs soon expire.
“It’s not the time for political brinkmanship,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) at a press conference on Tuesday.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Manchin, Senators Mark Warner (D., Virg.), Bill Cassidy (R., La.), Susan Collins (R., Me.), Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and several others — say their plan aims to find common ground on some of the most pressing issues, and it could be used as a framework for the next stimulus package.
The compromise proposal, which totals $908 billion, includes $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments —a top priority for Democratic lawmakers, which most Republicans opposed — and short-term protections from coronavirus lawsuits, a “red line” for Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Democrats have rejected. Those two issues alone have caused significant problems throughout negotiations so far. Romney said the temporary protections give states time to put their own protections in place.
The proposal also includes $288 billion to support small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury and Disaster Loans and other provisions. The lawmakers are calling for $180 billion for additional unemployment insurance, which would provide a $300 weekly boost to jobless benefits. The extra $600 per week included in the CARES Act expired earlier this year.
The proposal also calls for funding for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, education, child care, rental assistance, student loan assistance, transportation and more. The plan does not include another round of stimulus checks.
“Republicans and Democrats, neither of us got everything we wanted. Both of us got much of what we wanted. I think that combination reflects what Congress is supposed to do — Reconciling different priorities but ultimately doing something good for the American people,” said Cassidy.
The framework aims to provide relief through the first quarter of 2021, when President-elect Biden and the next Congress could decide what further measures are necessary.
“It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package as a bridge,” said Warner.
Manchin said the lawmakers could put together an actual bill quickly, and he’s hopeful Congressional leadership would put that legislation on the floor for a vote. Senators said the group has presented some of its ideas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and sought his input on necessary funding, but they told reporters they didn’t know if the White House would support the plan.
In a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Mnuchin said they had not seen the specific details of the $908 billion proposal.