(Breaking story. Most recent version: Friday, December 12, 2020, 4:00 p.m., Eastern. For earlier coverage, see below.)
The Senate on Friday approved a one-week stopgap bill to fund the government, buying additional time for negotiators to reach an agreement on both a catchall government spending package and a coronavirus aid plan to address the economic toll of the pandemic. (President Trump has to sign the bill or funding runs out at midnight, and the government would shut down.)
Democratic leaders have said the starting point for talks should be a $908 billion bipartisan compromise being drafted by a group of moderates.
It would include $288 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that extends loans to small businesses, and $300-a-week supplemental federal jobless payments until the spring. The proposal, for now, does not include direct payments from stimulus checks.
(Breaking story. Most recent version: Friday, December 11, 2020)
The $900-billion COVID-19 relief package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers has all but collapsed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP senators wi.. not support $160 billion in state and local funds as part of a potential tradeoff in the deal.
The proposal provides sweeping new funds for small businesses (via a renewed PPP loan program), healthcare providers, schools, and families suffering from the coronavirus crisis and the economic shutdowns.
According to the Associated Press, McConnell’s staff says the Senator sees no path to agreement on a key aspect of the existing proposal:
“A slimmed-down version of the liability shield that he wants for companies and organizations facing potential COVID-19 lawsuits in exchange for the state and local funds that Democrats want.“
The COVID-19 relief plan now threatens another pressing business: a must-pass government funding bill. If it doesn’t clear Congress, the lack of government funding would trigger a federal government shutdown Saturday. (The Senate approved a one-week delay.)
Trump’s top negotiator on COVID-19 financial aid, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, reported progress on Thursday before the package from the bipartisan senators group fell apart. “I think we’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said.