Stimulus checks and liability are among the sticking points in Covid’s last-minute deal

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives for the press conference after the weekly Senate Republican Caucus Politics lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Congress attempted an elusive coronavirus relief deal Tuesday as known barriers stood in the way of aid to Americans struggling to cover food and housing costs.

Washington leaders hope to pass a bailout before the end of the year after months of inactivity. If no further aid is sent by then, unemployment benefits for around 12 million people can be cut and millions of people threatened with eviction.

To reach an agreement in time, Republicans and Democrats must resolve even bigger disputes over corporate liability protection, state and local government relief, and direct payments to Americans. Legislators plan to buy more time to reach both pandemic relief and spending agreements by passing a week-long rolling resolution to keep government funding going through December 18.

A non-partisan group worked for days to produce a $ 908 billion compromise bill. Legislators intend to release more details on the proposal on Tuesday afternoon.

While the Democrats have adopted the plan as a basis for talks with Republican leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Has continued to call for a “targeted” bill of around $ 500 billion. According to Bloomberg, he plans to meet with Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss the development of stimulus plans.

A daily average Covid-19 infection rate of more than 200,000 has overwhelmed hospitals across the country. States and cities have put new economic restrictions in place to slow cases in an already sluggish economy where around 20 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.

Where the plans are

Congress leaders have signaled that they want to incorporate coronavirus control measures into spending legislation. The move would allow Congress to approve both must-pass invoices in one fell swoop.

Getting an agreement on both fronts is the hard part.

The bipartisan plan, as first outlined last week, would invest nearly $ 300 billion in paycheck protection program small business loans and $ 160 billion in support from state and local governments who may have to lay off workers. It would reintroduce the federal unemployment insurance surcharge at $ 300 per week and provide funding for the distribution, education, and transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, among other things.

The proposal originally presented would also give companies temporary federal liability for coronavirus-related lawsuits until states enact their own laws. However, negotiators have not yet decided how to produce the final text on legal protection and state and local aid, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Tuesday.

McConnell has insisted on including liability coverage in an aid package. His narrower approach includes this provision along with PPP loans and vaccine distribution and education funds. He has spoken out against new state and local easements.

Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Minority, DN.Y., spoke in the Senate on Tuesday calling on the GOP to abandon the demand for legal immunity.

“The situation is really quite simple,” he said. “There are blatant needs across the country and we have to work across party lines to pass laws that meet those needs.”

Stimulus checks have turned out to be a problem in an aid agreement. Two senators – Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and Missouri Republican Josh Hawley – have signaled they oppose a package that doesn’t include direct payments to families.

House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Told Bloomberg Tuesday that she would like to continue to want stimulus checks in an agreement. She said the question of including her was “really a matter for the president,” the news agency said.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that the Trump administration would push for direct payments in aid legislation. At the same time, McConnell’s opposition to the provision is “softening,” according to the report.

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