Congressional leaders are poised to approve another COVID stimulus package after a months-long stalemate exacerbated by the presidential election and the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The $900 billion proposal is a watered-down version of the CARES Act that includes stimulus checks of $600-$700 and extends the $300-per-week supplemental unemployment assistance through March.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) threatened to use an upcoming deadline to force a vote on stimulus checks – a goal also backed by President Donald Trump.
In addition to stimulus checks, the COVID package is expected to include significant funding for small businesses, transportation, healthcare, and education as well as protections against surprise medical billing.
Notably, the deal does not include the $160 billion blue state bailout favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or the liability protections for businesses favored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
A bipartisan proposal unveiled in early December included both of these elements but did not offer direct payments to Americans.
Though it does not include direct aid to local and state governments, the proposal does offer “other avenues to deliver aid to states, localities, territories, and tribes,” said a person familiar with the negotiations.
“We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” said McConnell on Wednesday. “We committed to continuing these urgent discussions until we have an agreement and we agreed we will not leave town until we’ve made law.”
“For Democrats, this has always been about getting the American people the relief they need at a time of an acute national crisis, of an emergency to so many Americans,” adds Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made it clear that Congress would be speaking about COVID relief again in the future.
The new stimulus package will come as part of the year-end spending bill that must be passed by December 18th to avoid a government shutdown. The House will vote on the proposal first and send it to the Senate to pass before the deadline.
If lawmakers fail to approve the stimulus package, an estimated 12 million laid-off workers will be left with zero income the day after Christmas when programs established by CARES expire.