A NEW stimulus deal with $600 checks may be agreed today as a deal is “basically reached.”
Senator Timothy Kaine instilled a fresh wave of hope on Thursday morning by telling reporters that an agreement has “basically” been reached.
A hoped-for announcement on Wednesday failed to materialize as lawmakers hammered out details of the legislation and top negotiators continued to trade offers.
It’s the first significant legislative response to the pandemic since the landmark CARES Act in March, which delivered $1.8trillion in aid.
Since then, Democrats have repeatedly called for further federal steps to provide relief and battle the pandemic, while Republicans have sought to more fully reopen the economy and to avoid padding the government’s $27trillion debt.
President-elect Joe Biden is eager for an aid package to prop up the economy and deliver direct aid to the jobless and hungry, even though the package falls short of what Democrats want.
He called the emerging version “an important down payment” and promised more help next year.
Republicans, too, are anxious to approve some aid before going home for the year.
Senator Timothy Kaine said a deal has ‘basically’ been reached[/caption]
“We’re still close and we’re gonna get there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday evening as he left the Capitol.
Also during a Senate GOP lunchtime call a day earlier, party leaders stressed the importance of reaching an agreement before the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.
The details were still being worked out, but lawmakers in both parties said leaders had agreed on a top-line total of about $900billion, with direct payments of perhaps $600 to most Americans and a $300-per-week bonus federal unemployment benefit to partially replace a $600-per-week benefit that expired this summer.
It also includes the renewal of extra weeks of state unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
More than $300billion in subsidies for business, including a second round of “paycheck protection” payments to especially hard-hit businesses, are locked in, as is $25billion to help struggling renters with their payments and provide food aid and farm subsidies, and a $10billion bailout for the Postal Service.
McConnell said that a deal is close[/caption]
Democrats acknowledged that the removal of a $160billion-or-so aid package for state and local governments whose budgets have been thrown out of balance by the pandemic was a bitter loss.
“It’s heartbreaking for us,” said Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, whose state has big fiscal problems.
The emerging package was serving as a magnet for adding on other items, and the two sides continued to swap offers.
It was apparent that another temporary spending bill would be needed to prevent a government shutdown at midnight on Friday.
Pelosi has been very involved in negotiations[/caption]
House lawmakers returned to Washington on Wednesday in hopes of a vote soon on the broader package, which would combine the Covid-19 relief with a $1.4trillion governmentwide funding bill and a host of other remaining congressional business, including extending expiring tax breaks and passing other unfinished legislation.
Negotiations intensified on Tuesday after months of futility. Before the election, with Democrats riding high in the polls, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a hard line for more aid.
Now, McConnell is playing a strong hand after a better-than-expected performance in the elections limited GOP losses in Senate races.
McConnell successfully pushed to get Democrats to drop their much-sought $160billion state and local government aid package while giving up a key priority of his own — a liability shield for businesses and other institutions like universities fearing Covid-19 lawsuits.
Democrats cited other gains for states and localities in the emerging deal such as help for transit systems, schools and vaccine distribution.
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The addition of the $600 direct payments came after recent endorsements from both President Donald Trump and progressives including Senator Bernie Sanders, who remains dissatisfied about the overall package.
“Everything that is in that package is vitally needed,” Sanders told MSNBC on Wednesday.
“The problem is that it is a much smaller package than the country needs in this moment of economic desperation.”