Bipartisan Lawmakers Finally Ready To Release $908 Billion Stimulus Bill, But The Plan Is Far From A Done Deal

Topline

After struggling for two weeks to finalize a $908 billion coronavirus aid framework, a bipartisan group of lawmakers over the weekend reached a compromise on liability protections for businesses and federal aid to states and local governments—two thorny issues at the center of the stimulus impasse in Washington—but there’s no guarantee that leadership from either party will sign on to the plan. 

Key Facts

The group will release their proposed legislation in two pieces, according to multiple reports: a $748 billion bill that would contain enhanced unemployment insurance, small business aid, healthcare funding, and other less controversial provisions, and a separate $160 billion bill containing the state and local aid and temporary liability protections. 

There’s no guarantee that Congressional leadership will back the proposal, however, especially given Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s aversion to additional state and local aid and Democratic leaders’ recent rejection of McConnell’s suggestion to eliminate state and local aid and liability from the framework entirely in order to expedite a deal. 

The separation of the bipartisan framework into two bills could mean that the less controversial section could pass while the other provisions fail. 

Citing a person familiar with the talks so far, Bloomberg reported that it’s unlikely that the entire bipartisan group will sign on to both bills. 

Crucial Quote

“The plan is alive and well and there’s no way, no way that we are going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the bipartisan group that crafted the legislation, told Fox News Sunday.

Key Background

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is continuing to negotiate with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Trump administration (though the two camps have not been able to reach any meaningful compromise after months). On Sunday, a spokesman for Pelosi reiterated the House Speaker’s stance on including state and local aid in the final bill, saying she believes it is “even more important” given states’ new responsibilities related to vaccine distribution. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week introduced a $916 billion relief proposal endorsed by the White House. That proposal included some state and local aid but has been criticized by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) because it included a liability shield for businesses but did not include any additional federal supplemental unemployment insurance. 

Tangent

Lawmakers are hoping to attach the relief legislation to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that will fund the government through the 2021 fiscal year. After averting a government shutdown last week by passing a short term continuing resolution, Congress now has until December 18 to agree on and pass the omnibus, unless lawmakers decide to pass another short-term extension.

What To Watch For

The bipartisan group plans to release the full text of both bills on Monday afternoon. 

Further Reading

Talks On Stimulus Package Deadlock On State And Local Aid Despite Assurances Of Progress (Forbes)

Sen. Manchin: Trump’s Push For Stimulus Checks Without Renewing Jobless Benefits Is ‘Bad Idea’ (Forbes)

Senate Averts Shutdown, Passes $741 Billion Defense Bill With Veto-Proof Majority, Buying Time For Stimulus And Budget Deal (Forbes)

As Stimulus Negotiations Drag On, Pelosi Says Congress ‘Cannot Leave’ Without Passing A New Aid Bill (Forbes)

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