A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Dec. 14 unveiled details of their two-part $908 billion COVID-19 relief plan that could form the basis of final talks between leaders in Congress.
"Bipartisanship and compromise is alive and well in Washington, contrary to what you've been hearing. We've proven that," said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in announcing details of the two-part package that aims to provide economic relief to American workers and small businesses amid the pandemic.
A separate $160 billion includes state aid sought by Democrats, and liability provisions that Republicans have sought as part of a relief package.
Any agreement is likely to be forged in parallel negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—closely watched by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Outstanding issues in the leadership talks include a potential second round of direct payments to individuals, a plan for $300 per week bonus unemployment benefits, state and local aid, and the GOP-sought liability shield against COVID-19-related lawsuits.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called the proposal a “Christmas miracle,” saying she hoped that top Capitol Hill leaders and the administration will use the proposals as the basis for a COVID-relief package “that is urgently needed by our struggling families, our hard-hit small businesses, our stressed-out health care providers, our overwhelmed Postal Service, our challenged schools, and so many others.”
“We have worked night and day for over a month. Literally on Thanksgiving Day, with texts and conference calls and Zooms to put together an emergency COVID relief package,” Collins said. “I just want to go on record as being for both of these bills.”
There’s a hoped-for deadline of midnight Friday to deliver the completed package to President Donald Trump, which is when a partial government shutdown would arrive with the expiration of last week’s temporary funding bill. But there’s no guarantee that the massive year-end measure will be completed in time. If the talks drag, further temporary bills could be needed.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said Monday that the aid bill should be passed urgently.
"Let us get it done. Not for us, but for the people we represent, and for the people who need this as soon as possible," Reed said.
Co-chair Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), meanwhile, said that going home for the December holidays without passing a relief bill was "not an option."