Authorities closure threatens as Congress passes coronavirus stimulation regulation

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, walks to his office from the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on December 18, 2020.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Congress had just hours to prevent the government from closing on Friday as lawmakers tried to put the finishing touches on a massive coronavirus bailout.

Heads of state and government on Capitol Hill have said for days that they are on the verge of reaching an agreement on a $ 900 billion aid proposal that would cost $ 1.4 trillion in spending. However, some new disputes have prevented Washington from sending new aid to warring Americans for the first time in nearly nine months.

Congress has little time to act. Funding expires on Saturday at 12:01 a.m. ET.

“Talks remain productive,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said Friday morning. “In fact, I am now even more optimistic than last night that a non-partisan two-chamber framework for a major rescue package is very close.”

Lawmakers could pass another short-term funding measure to keep the government going while it goes through the process of writing an aid package and pushing it through both houses of Congress. Even this strategy may not prevent a shutdown. Any senator could delay the swift passage of a temporary spending measure known as a rolling resolution.

The leaders of Congress have pledged to work through the weekend and pass a bill before heading home for the vacation. The health and livelihood of millions of Americans depend on Congress sending more aid before the end of the year.

McConnell said, “The Senate will be here until an agreement is reached whenever possible.”

With healthcare workers receiving Covid-19 vaccinations during a crushing wave of infections across the country, federal funding is required for further distribution of the shots. The outbreak has killed more than 310,000 people nationwide as the US struggles to contain its spread.

Meanwhile, 12 million people will lose unemployment insurance the day after Christmas if Congress doesn’t extend the pandemic provisions that expanded benefits. If a federal eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month, millions are at risk of losing their homes.

While the developing $ 900 billion relief plan is set to expand these unemployment benefits, it is currently unclear how it will address evacuation protection and any assistance to people who owe rent.

The proposal is expected to reintroduce a federal unemployment insurance surcharge of $ 300 per week. A federal payment of $ 600 a week introduced in March expired in the summer, dropping revenues by millions.

The package would include direct payments of $ 600, although it’s unclear who is eligible to receive them. Families are expected to receive $ 600 for children as well. Progressives in Congress and some Republicans have labeled the sum too low for people to come by during the pandemic, finding that lawmakers easily approved a direct payment of $ 1,200 in March.

White House advisors have stopped President Donald Trump from sending last-minute checks for up to $ 2,000 to Americans, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Attempted to approve a measure that would allow another direct payment of $ 1,200 on Friday. He called the cash injection “the least we can do for working families”.

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Then declined to pass the measure on public debt concerns, arguing that tax cuts and deregulation would better serve Americans who are out of work during the pandemic. It is unclear how these measures would help people find it difficult to afford food and housing now.

The exchange highlighted the challenges that Congress will face in the coming days in both preventing a shutdown and passing a bailout package. Johnson even called the $ 900 billion package, which contains only $ 600 checks, “way too big”.

Hawley said Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Would attempt to make $ 1,200 direct payments later Friday. The Republican added that he would block a short-term state funding bill unless he saw a final aid proposal that included direct payments.

The Congressional relief plan would include at least $ 300 billion in small business support. It would also provide funding for the distribution and testing of Covid-19 vaccines and provide relief to hospitals.

The proposal would put money in schools and the transport sector.

A handful of problems sparked the final phase of negotiations. This includes a Federal Emergency Management Agency relief fund for states and restrictions. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Wants to strengthen the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers during the pandemic, according to NBC News.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Said Republicans who support the provision “sabotage” President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to lead an economic recovery after taking office on Jan. 20.

“Proposals to sabotage President Biden and our nation’s economy are ruthless, false and have no place in this legislation,” she said in a statement.

Congress passed the $ 2 trillion CARES bill in late March, which provides solid economic support in the early stages of the pandemic. But lawmakers offered no new help in the months that followed, despite the raging virus, falling by the wayside financial lifelines, and cracking the economic recovery.

Democrats have pushed for significantly more relief. Calling the $ 900 billion plan a “down payment,” Biden has signaled that he will attempt to approve further aid after he takes office on Jan. 20.

McConnell pushed for new spending of only about $ 500 billion for months. Many in his party resisted putting so much money into a relief plan.

Next year, Democrats are likely to push for new aid to state and local governments who may have to lay off first responders when faced with budget crises. The GOP did not agree to send the relief without corporate liability coverage.

The leaders of Congress agreed to set both issues aside in negotiating the year-end package.

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