Lawmakers have given themselves one more week to reach a deal on a new coronavirus relief package that congressional leaders want to wrap into a government-wide funding bill for fiscal 2021.
In a sign of a possible compromise on COVID-19 relief is in the works, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Sunday that Democrats may not get the state and local aid they believe is needed.
Democrats "are not going to get everything we want. We think state and local (aid) is important," he told CNN's Inside Politics. "And if we can get that we want to get it. But we want to get aid out to the people who are really, really struggling and are at grave risk."
Also this week, members of the electoral college meet Monday to formally ratify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court cleared the last remaining hurdle on Friday when it summarily dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas to challenge the legality of the election in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Each state has a number of electors equal to the size of its congressional delegation.
Also Monday, a bipartisan group of about 10 senators is expected to release the text of the $908 billion compromise coronavirus relief package that they have been working on, said a leader of the group, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The package will include $13 billion in new agriculture spending, according to a summary the senators circulated last week.
"The plan is alive and well, and there’s no way, no way, we’re going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people," Manchin said on Fox News Sunday.
The bipartisan package also will include $10 billion for broadband expansion and authorize a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, a top priority of Democrats, according to the summary. Another provision would ensure that recipients of Paycheck Protection Program loans could deduct from their taxes the same expenses they used to claim forgiveness of the PPP loans.
However, the package doesn't have the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has been demanding liability protections for business. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has been pushing lawmakers to provide $600 stimulus checks to Americans in lieu of enhanced unemployment benefits.
A continuing resolution that had been funding the government since FY21 began Oct. 1, expired on Friday, but the House and Senate cleared a one-weeek extension that was quickly signed into law.
Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D. expressed doubt that the liability issue could be resolved in the next few days. “It’s a really complicated subject that is going to take more time to work,” Thune told reporters on Friday.
“There are a whole series of things that there’s broad agreement on, and my view is we ought to move those, add them onto the appropriations bill, and then litigate those other issues another time,” Thune said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Wednesday that negotiators appeared to be “very close” to a deal. But she suggested the next day that the impasse could run to Christmas, noting that several emergency aid programs, including unemployment insurance, expire on Dec. 26.
“We cannot go before the package is ready and the votes are there. … We’ve been here after Christmas, you know,” she said.
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