Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a possible new stimulus package.
Congressional leaders said on Wednesday that they are nearing an agreement on a roughly $900 billion economic relief package that would include a second round of stimulus checks and could be completed by the end of this week.
The package is expected to include hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for ailing small businesses and jobless Americans with tens of billions of dollars in aid for other critical needs, such as vaccine distribution and schools; and a one time check of between $600 and $700 for millions of Americans below a certain income threshold.
Lawmakers are racing to pass a deal in part because of widespread signs of economic deterioration in the face of the resurgent pandemic, as well as the imminent expiration of several critical federal aid programs by the end of the year. Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since this summer, and this is according to a new report, in part because emergency benefit programs expired. More Americans are filing for unemployment benefits, and the pace of hiring has slowed down.
Congress must also pass a new spending bill by midnight on Friday to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. Aides said lawmakers could pass another short term extension of government funding to buy negotiators more time to strike a deal.
The political dynamics that have also opened the door for a potential agreement. Congressional Democrats had sought a much larger stimulus package before the election. Many, however, have now softened their position following President elect Joe Biden’s victory in hope of securing some immediate relief. Leadership negotiations were also revived by bipartisan legislation released earlier this week, spearheaded by a team including Manchin and Sens. Mark Warner (D.VA.) and Mitt Romney (R.Utah). The final bill is expected to close
The bills are beginning to take shape, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.CA) hosted hours of meetings Tuesday with the three other most senior congressional leaders Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.KY.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.CA.). Negotiators have described those talks as productive.
The emerging stimulus package is expected to include a new round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which faced controversy for giving government aid to large corporations, as well as targeted relief for other ailing business sectors. It will also include $300 per week in supplemental federal benefits for more than 10 million jobless Americans, according to Senator John Thune (R.S.D.).
Democrats have also secured $25 billion to establish a new program to provide emergency rental assistance, funding that could be used to cover past and future rent payments, as well as other related expenses, Schumer told Senate Democrats on a video call; according to a Democratic official familiar with his remarks. Some key parts of the bill have shifted in the past few days. The initial $908 billion bipartisan proposal, released earlier this week by the group of moderates, would have not authorized another round of stimulus checks. Negotiators had tried to keep the bill’s price tag below $1 trillion to maintain Republican support for the effort. The bill would, however, have included money for state and local governments. But state and local relief funding appeared to fall out of the deal because lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise on coronavirus related liability protections for corporations
The potential inclusion of stimulus checks came after a push from Sanders and Senator Josh Hawley (R.MO.), who threatened must pass government spending legislation to ensure a vote on a second round of stimulus checks. Trump has also pushed for another round of stimulus checks to be included in the final package, as have some left leaning lawmakers in the House. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had proposed including $600 stimulus checks in the package last week, but Democrats opposed the measure then because the White House also wanted to get rid of unemployment aid.
The addition of the stimulus checks is expected to also come by reducing the amount of unemployment aid. Congressional leaders have told other lawmakers that they are planning on reducing the length of unemployment benefits by one month from the bipartisan plan, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private remarks. That could mean that the extended benefits would expire at the end of March. Such a timeline could force the incoming Biden administration to move more quickly in its effort to pass a massive stimulus bill early next year. Senator Ron Wyden (D.OR.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, panned the cut to unemployment benefits as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The legislative push was expected to include various other priorities unrelated to the relief package. Along with the $900 billion legislation, lawmakers are expected to approve $1.4 trillion to fund the federal agencies; tens of billions of dollars in extensions to expiring tax provisions; numerous trade provisions; and a bipartisan energy bill authored by Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.Alaska), among other potential measures.
The bipartisan compromise on medical billing that lawmakers are working to include in the bill has been in development for more than a year, pitting insurance companies against private equity firms and doctors’ groups in an expensive public relations and lobbying battle. The legislation requires providers and insurers to negotiate directly, working with independent arbitrators to settle disputes. That approach, favored by the doctors and their financial backers, won out over a system of “benchmarking” prices to the rates.
The relief bill is likely to be coupled with several other major legislative efforts from legislation to fund federal agencies to a bipartisan effort to rein in surprise medical billing that lawmakers could then pass into law in two days.