Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, part of the bipartisan group of senators, as seen in February 2020. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
The group of senators behind a bipartisan $908 billion proposal for a COVID-19 stimulus plan to release the full text on Monday, Politico reported.
Despite weeks of trying, Congress has not reached a consensus on what kind of stimulus to pass, though the $908 billion proposal has more bipartisan support than any other plan.
According to Politico, the senators want to split the proposal into two parts, to provide a bare minimum of funding even if the more contentious issues can’t pass.
The issues of a business liability shield and the level of support for state and local governments will be hived off from the rest in a smaller $160 billion package, per Politico.
The less contentious parts will form a second package of $748 billion which may command more support.
The group has the support of leading Democrats, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, is not on board.
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The bipartisan group of lawmakers working to agree a $908 billion COVID-19 stimulus are expected to present their final proposal on Monday in two separate parts, Politico reported.
The group has broken off the two most contentious parts from the main body of the package, where agreement is more settled, two people familiar with the negotiations told Politico.
“We’ve broken the gridlock,” Sen. Joe Manchin, who is part of the group, separately told The New York Times.
The solution is meant to get around the lack of agreement on the two main issues holding up progress: The question of liability protections for businesses in the pandemic, pushed for by the GOP; and the higher levels of state and local government funding wanted by the Democratic Party.
These issues are now addressed in a $160 billion compromise proposal to be voted on separately, according to Politico.
In addition, a less controversial $748 billion package will be put forward, the outlet reported. This would provide for coronavirus vaccine distribution, small business loans, unemployment insurance and support for healthcare workers and education.
Together they make up the $908 billion total.
It means that the bulk of the package stands a stronger chance of passing, while the more contentious aspects could be ditched. It echoes an idea pushed for last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggested putting the hardest issues aside until early next year.
The move to break the proposal into two parts came during a week-long extension, granted at the eleventh hour last week, for the government’s deadline to agree overall spending. Lawmakers hope to attach a stimulus bill to this, with a new deadline of Friday to avert a government shutdown.
McConnell has withheld his support for the bipartisan group, instead bringing forward his own, much-slimmed-down $550 billion package, as well as signing off on a separate $916 billion proposal from the White House.
The White House proposal, which was introduced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week, is slightly larger, contains a business liability shield, and includes stimulus checks for individual Americans of $600.
President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he wanted to see “more money than they’re talking about” for stimulus checks.
Despite the inclusion of checks – a long-held Democratic Party desire – the White House proposal was deemed a nonstarter by Democrats last week. The reason was that its proposed unemployment insurance of $40 billion is far below what is sought in the bipartisan framework.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have backed the bipartisan proposal, a major concession from their earlier calls for a far larger $2.2 trillion package from before the presidential election.
The current bipartisan set of proposals does not include any stimulus checks.
Complicating matters further, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for a bill introduced by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley calling for another round of $1,200 checks.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s chief of staff, said in a Twitter thread that she and Mnuchin spoke for around 30 minutes on Sunday in a conversation which suggested that she is still prepared to fight for state and local government funding.
She also signaled willingness to compromise on a business liability shield if it “does not jeopardize workers’ safety,” Hammill wrote.
“There’s no guarantee” that the bipartisan proposals will pass, Manchin told Politico. “I can’t guarantee they’re all going to vote for it and pass it, but I can tell you one thing: What’s the alternative? What are you going to do?”
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