By Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Bearing on a midnight shutdown deadline, top negotiators must pass, with nearly $ 1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package committed to seal an agreement Friday as they legislate later this week Resolve remaining differences in hopes of passage. .
The pressure continues. The government funding decreases at midnight on Friday and a partial, low-impact shutdown occurs if Congress fails to pass a stopgap spending bill before that. This is not a guarantee, Senate GOP whip John Thune said some Republicans may have blocked the stopgap measure to keep pressure on whether negotiations have not fructified.
But all sides hoped that the last-minute conflict would not derail the law. After Thursday continued for much longer, negotiators became more optimistic, although the complexity of finalizing the remaining issues and drafting agreements in precise legislative form proved challenging.
But the central elements of a difficult struggle appeared in place: more than $ 300 billion in aid to businesses; $ 300-per-week bonus federal unemployed benefits and renewal of soon-to-expire state benefits; $ 600 direct payment to individuals; Vaccine distribution fund and funds for people for renters, schools, postal service and food assistance.
MPs were asked to expect a session and vote this weekend.
“The new deadline is Friday,” said James McGovern, D-Mass., Chairman of the House Rules Committee, who expected a House vote by Saturday.
The hangup included an effort by Senate Conservative Pat Tommy, R-Pa., To stop emergency lending programs by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, eliminating related grants related to COVID-19 and local government matching requirements for the myriad There was a democratic demand to do. Non-epidemic add-ons, disagreement over lawmakers and assistants.
Delays were not uncommon for legislation of this size and importance, but lawmakers are eager to leave Washington for the holidays and ants are occurring.
The pending bill is the first significant legislative response to the epidemic since the nearly CARES Act passed unanimously in March, giving $ 1.8 trillion in aid and a more generous $ 600 bonus per week to unemployed benefits and $ 1,200 direct payments to individuals.
In an unsuccessful attempt to thwart coronoviruses, CARES legislation passed in a moment of great uncertainty and unprecedented shutdown, but after that, many Republicans focused more on social and economic sanctions, as they instead of more supportive-funded aid Were critical to recovery.
Now, Republicans are primarily motivated to expand occupational subsidies and some unemployed benefits, and provide funding for schools and vaccines. Democrats have focused on large economic stimulus measures and more help for those struggling financially during the epidemic. Thursday was undeveloped by immediate unemployment numbers, which showed that 885,000 people applied for unemployed benefits last week, the highest weekly total since September.
The looming package calls for more than $ 2 trillion, with Democrats calling for this decline before the election, but President-Elect Joe Biden for an aid package to support the economy and help the unemployed and hungry. are keen. While Biden says more economic stimulus will be needed early next year, some Republicans say the current package may be final.
“If we address the critical needs right now, and things get better next year, because the vaccine gets out of there and the economy starts again, you know, there might be a need less,” Thune said said.
The details were still working, but the measure includes a second round of “paycheck protection” payments specifically for hard-hit businesses, $ 25 billion to help renters struggling with their payments, airlines And $ 45 billion for transit systems, a temporary 15% or so increase in food stamp benefits, additional agricultural subsidies and a $ 10 billion bailout for postal service.
The emerging package will combine $ 900 billion in COVID-19 relief with a $ 1.4 trillion government-wide funding bill. Then there are several unrelated add-ons that are catching a ride, known in the appropriation panel shorthand as “ash and garbage”.
A key candidate is a nearly 400-page water resources bill that targets $ 10 billion for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects. Another possible addition would be expanding a batch of soon-to-be-finished tax breaks, including craft brewers, wineries and distillers.
Finally the session rush also promises relief for victims of shocking steep medical bills, an event that often occurs when providers exit the insurance company’s network.
A major breakthrough earlier this week when Democrats agreed to abandon their own major $ 160 billion state and local government aid package, leaving McConnell a key priority of its own – businesses and other institutions such as An obligation shield for universities afraid of COVID-19. Lawsuits.
President Donald Trump and Sainty in addition to the $ 600 direct payment. Following the recent endorsements of both aspiring GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, such as Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D.N.Y. Of Missouri. The idea is not very popular in other corners because it is too expensive and will give money to millions of people who may not need it, but it has immense political appeal and is difficult to stop.
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