Democratic and Republican leaders reached an agreement on a new coronavirus relief package for about $900 billion that includes another round of stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits. The bill will soon be put for a vote in the House and the Senate.
“We’ve agreed to a package of nearly $900 billion, with targeted policies that help struggling Americans who’ve already waited entirely too long,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said from the Senate floor on Sunday. “At long last, we had the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed. Now we need to properly finalize tax avoidance or last minute obstacles and cooperate to move this legislation through both chambers.”
“Today, we have reached agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a joint statement. “We are going to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of the American people.”
‘Enactment of a law is highly likely’
The four Congressional leaders — known as the “four corners” — McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) began a series of meetings last week to discuss the stimulus deal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been representing the White House in talks, also joined the discussions.
“A deal among these members would mean enactment of a law is highly likely,” Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, told Yahoo Money before the deal was struck. “I don’t see impediments to passage in Congress if the leadership cuts a deal. It’s as close as we can expect these days.”
The new deal leans on the $748 billion stimulus bill introduced by lawmakers from both parties last Monday and includes provisions both sides support, along with a second round of stimulus checks that wasn’t part of the bipartisan proposal. This time the direct payment to Americans will be $600 “per adult and child,” according to Pelosi and Schumer’s statement.
Also included are another round of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, money for vaccine distribution, and funding for schools, McConnell said.
Other provisions in the $900 billion deal include renewing and extending two federal unemployment programs and an additional weekly payment of $300 as well as $25 billion in rental assistance, an extension of the eviction moratorium, $13 billion in food assistance, and $7 billion to increase access to broadband, Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement.
More details will come when the text is released.
What’s left out of the new deal is aid for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses — both key sticking points in earlier negotiations. Democrats called the liability protection a “poison pill,” while the GOP characterized the state and local aid as a “blue state bailout.”
“We all know the new administration is going to be asking for yet another package,” McConnell told reporters earlier on Tuesday. “It’s not like we won’t have another opportunity to debate the merits of liability reform and state local government in the very near future.”
‘When smelly bits undoubtedly rise to the surface ’
The deal is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives and then the Senate. soon, eventually reaching the White House to be signed by the president to become law.
With Republican and Democratic leaders releasing the text of the bill on Sunday evening and putting it for a vote soon after, lawmakers will have little time to review the over 3,000-page text.
“When smelly bits undoubtedly rise to the surface over the next few weeks, this episode will not be looked on favorably,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “All this could have been avoided if negotiations had started in earnest after the election and the president had taken even a modicum of interest in the process.”
The price tag of the stimulus package has significantly decreased since lawmakers began negotiating this phase of the stimulus deal in July.
Democrats came to the table with their $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, while the GOP came up with a $1 trillion HEALS Act during the summer. Many of the provisions in those two proposals have been trimmed or left out. The White House was also active in the negotiations and its stimulus proposal reached around $1.9 trillion before the election.
If a deal isn’t passed by Congress and signed by the president in the coming days, up to 12 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits coverage when two programs enacted under the CARES Act expire on December 26. The federal eviction moratorium, paid sick leave, aid to state and local governments, among other relief, also will lapse.