Congress is moving closer to a deal on the coronavirus relief bill that has stalled for months, The Washington Post reports.
Congressional leaders neared an agreement on Wednesday for a $900 billion round of relief, according to the report.
Congress is rushing to finalize the deal, which it hopes to approve along with a must-pass spending bill to avert a government shutdown on Friday.
House Democrats sought more than $3 trillion in relief and later came down to $2.2 trillion while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to go above $500 billion. The new bill is similar to a $908 billion proposal from a bipartisan group of Senators including Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Joe Manchin that got the backing of Democratic leaders.
The bill could avert disaster with millions of people facing the expiration of desperately needed benefits at the end of the year.
Stimulus payments back in:
Both sides dropped stimulus checks from their previous December proposals but negotiators appear set to include stimulus checks of about $600, down from $1,200 in the Cares Act, in exchange for dropping Democrats’ demand for aid to local and state governments. The move comes after a push by progressive lawmakers, Bernie Sanders, Josh Hawley, and the Trump administration to include stimulus payments.
Democrats say the bill will include other sources of funding to help local and state governments.
The bill is also expected to include a federal unemployment boost of $300 per week, down from the $600 per week that was included in the Cares Act.
The bill also includes billions to help small businesses and money for vaccine distribution and other measures.
Finish line in sight:
“The finish line is in sight,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer declared on Wednesday. “We Democrats would have liked to go considerably further, but this won’t be the last time Congress speaks on covid relief. We need to address this emergency right now.”
Democrats are expected to seek a larger additional package after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“It’s not going to be the full-blown thing that some of our members and some of their members want to see,” said Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. “Progress is being made. It seems like there’s movement in the right direction.”