Lawmakers Present Bipartisan Coronavirus Relief Bill

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled details of their coronavirus relief package yesterday, representing lawmakers’ latest push to move an aid bill before year’s end. The proposal is comprised of two separate bills: the first contains roughly $750 billion for education, unemployment benefits, vaccine distribution, and other funds, while the second provides $160 billion in state and local aid, as well as liability protections for businesses. The latter provisions have proven contentious, and were frequently cited as key reasons for holding up earlier negotiations. 

Some Democrats have criticized the strategy, arguing that states are in desperate need of aid to make up large budget deficits. But over the weekend, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer opened the door to the approach. “Although I think state and local assistance is critically important, the [other provisions] are critically important too,” Hoyer said in a CNN interview

Whether each party’s leadership will support the package also remains unknown. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed general support for a bill that omits state and local aid and the liability shield, but has not yet weighed in on this proposal. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been in close contact with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the past few days, according to her office, which suggests that she might still be pushing for broader legislation. 

Lawmakers also reportedly made significant progress over the weekend on the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. After passing a short-term extension last week to avoid a government shutdown, Congress now has until Friday, Dec. 18, to finalize them. If lawmakers can come to an agreement on a stimulus bill, it would likely be included as part of the must-pass funding legislation.