Lawmakers Rush to Complete Relief Before Break: Congress Update

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer face pressure to allow a vote on a Covid-19 assistance plan without the aid for states they’ve said is vital, after a bipartisan group split that and liability protections from other relief spending.

With the congressional session winding down and a government funding package needed by Friday, time is running out for an agreement on the two most contentious and partisan pandemic-relief issues — Covid-19 liability protections for employers and aid for state and local governments.

That makes Tuesday a potentially crucial day for the congressional leadership to establish the contours of a possible deal as record numbers of Americans die from the coronavirus and the economic rebound falters.

A bipartisan group that had floated a $908 billion plan at the start of the month offered it up in two bills on Monday, with a $748 billion core piece separate from $160 billion in state and local aid and liability protection. Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in that chamber, favored allowing a vote on a package without the two more fraught elements.

Other Developments:

  • Covid-19 Relief Plan Splits Key Aid, Most Contentious Items
  • Senior Democrat Dick Durbin Supports Consensus Aid Bill
  • Senate Passes Stopgap Funding Bill to Avert Federal Shutdown

Leadership Plans Awaited After Bipartisan Relief Pitch (2 a.m.)

Tuesday looms as a make-or-break day for virus-related economic aid to be included as part of a government spending package needed by Friday when a stopgap federal funding bill runs out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a press briefing, giving him the opportunity to again endorse stripping out the liability protection he has long sought for the next round of Covid-19 relief, along with the state aid he opposes. A $748 billion package would be larger than the bills he favored in recent months, and he has yet to indicate whether he’d back that.

Schumer will also speaks to reporters Tuesday, after his top lieutenant Durbin, a member of the bipartisan negotiating team, said a vote should be allowed on a bill that leaves out the toughest elements to get a deal on.

Congressional leaders also may need to address pressure from some quarters to add stimulus checks to a relief bill. The bipartisan $748 billion proposal doesn’t have that, though does offer $300-per-week supplementary unemployment benefit payments.

Other areas of spending have been backed by both sides, from about $300 billion for small businesses to funding for items including education, transportation and vaccine distribution.

After working through the night, lawmakers and staff are separately hoping to release the text of a $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government into 2021. That could set up votes in the House as soon as Wednesday, although that could be delayed.

Meantime, members of the Problem Solvers group of centrist House members continue to work on liability protection, in a last ditch effort to win Democratic backing.

Coming up:

McConnell and Schumer will have press conferences on Tuesday, in which they could indicate what they are willing to include in and exclude from the coronavirus relief bill. The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, while the House of Representatives won’t be in session until Wednesday.

— With assistance by Daniel Flatley, Erik Wasson, and Laura Litvan

Source: Read Full Article