Bicameral Group Unveils Revised, Two-Part Coronavirus Relief Package

December 15, 2020 by Dan McCue
Inaugural preparations underway at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 12, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – A bicameral and bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a two-part version of their previously announced $908 billion coronavirus package, hoping the change in structure will help move it through Congress and on to the president by the end of the week.

Progress was the word of the day on Capitol Hill Monday as lawmakers worked to put the finishing touches on a massive federal spending bill and the COVID relief package.

What is anticipated is that both will be passed together as the last significant legislation of both the 116th Congress and Donald Trump’s presidency.

The two-part relief package is the product of intense work over the weekend by about a dozen lawmakers.

Part one is a $748 billion aid package that includes Paycheck Protection Program assistance for struggling businesses, and more money for the unemployed, schools, and for vaccine distribution.

Part two proposes a $160 billion aid package for state and local governments and provisions shielding businesses from COVID-related lawsuits, a provision favored by Senate Republicans.

Splitting the bill in two could make it easier to convince congressional leaders to take up a smaller coronavirus deal and either pass it or add it to the must-pass, omnibus government funding deal.

But the fate of both bills remains uncertain and timing is everything.

Among other things, the first votes on the measures, planned for Wednesday, may coincide with the most significant snow storm to hit D.C. in at least two years.

Even at this hour, negations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are said to be ongoing regarding a number of issues, including a potential second round of direct payments to individuals, a plan for $300 bonus unemployment benefits, and the provisions on state and local aid and business liability that have stymied striking a deal for weeks.

And there’s no guarantee that the completed package will make it to the president before midnight Friday, when the current continuing funding resolution expires and a partial government shutdown would theoretically begin.

If that happened, another continuing resolution would have to be passed to get the bill done. 

On the Senate floor Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The next several days are going to bring about one of two outcomes.

“Either 100 Senators will be here shaking our heads, slinging blame, and offering excuses about why we still have not been able to make a law … or we will break for the holidays having sent another huge dose of relief out the door for the people who need it,” McConnell said.

Notably, he did not mention the bicameral bill or any of its particulars.

Across the aisle, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said that he would review the reworked measures, adding Democrats are 100% committed to having a significant relief package signed into law sooner rather than later.

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