On Wednesday, Congressional leaders closed in on a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal, much to the respite of millions who have been struggling and waiting for help.
Staff for the top four leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy — held talks on Wednesday by phone.
McConnell said in a floor speech that Hill leaders have “made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” and said, “we agreed we will not leave town until we’ve made law.”
However, McConnell did not publicize any specifics on what would be included and excluded in the deal, but offered a preview of what’s likely, “We need vaccine distribution money, we need to re-up the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs, we need to continue to provide for laid off Americans.”
Pelosi has signaled that the deal is not final yet shred the general outlines of the proposal.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters that he thinks $600-$700 is under discussion for stimulus checks and “double that for family and kids.”
Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, has added that he thinks there will be $300 for unemployment benefits per week.
“I feel more optimistic I think that there’s been a lot of progress made,” he said, adding, “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to hit the deadline.”
Hill leaders will need to sell their committee plans to the Congress as quickly as possible because the threat of a shutdown looms at the end of the week.
Once the deal is finalized, leadership from both parties will have to brief the rank-and-file to advertise them on the contract and then hold a vote in both chambers.
Reports say that negotiators are likely to initiate a $1.4 trillion government funding package. When the House Rules Committee gathers for a House vote, an amendment would be presented to nail the COVID-19 relief deal before the package to the floor.
Once a vote takes place in the House, there will be little time left on the calendar before a potential shutdown is triggered.
While a deal still has yet to be finalized, lawmakers expect a plan for swift passage. Sen. Rand Paul has stated his support for a quick Senate vote on the stimulus deal. “We probably won’t object to the time limitations on it,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters.
Reports say that a $748 billion bipartisan proposal make public this week could serve as a starting point for what might be included. That package proposes a $300 billion grant for the Small Business Administration and more amounts for Paycheck Protection Program loans. There will be $35 billion allocated for health care providers and $2.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution and infrastructure. The package also includes a $3.4 billion allocation as grants for vaccine efforts. $7 billion is set aside for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $82 billion for schools and other education providers, and $25 billion for rental assistance and an increase for food stamps. Also included is an expansion of federal supplemental unemployment insurance benefits by $300 per week for 16 weeks. Eviction moratorium is extended until the end of January 2021, and student loan forbearance extended till April 2021.