Second stimulus checks: New bipartisan effort to pass COVID relief

National

FILE – This April 23, 2020, file photo shows President Donald J. Trump’s name printed on a stimulus check issued by the IRS to help combat the adverse economic effects of the new coronavirus outbreak in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A bipartisan group of senators is working to pass an additional round of stimulus relief as negotiations among party leadership have all but come to a screeching halt in Washington, according to a report from Politico.

Politico reports the conversations started during the Thanksgiving recess and centered around expanded unemployment insurance and a moratorium on evictions. It’s unclear if an additional round of $1,200 direct payments would be included.

Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are among those involved in the discussions, according to Politico. Warner recently went on record saying it would be “stupidity on steroids if Congress didn’t act before the holidays.”

While the group hopes to craft a proposal before the end of this week, it’s likely to face opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican has preferred a “slim” or “targeted” package that would not include another round of stimulus checks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed McConnell to come back to the negotiating table and placed blame on the GOP leader for recent inaction.

“Over six months ago when we passed the Heroes Act, Leader McConnell said we need a pause. We need a pause. Well, I would hope that for him, the pause can come to an end. Nearly 200,000 people have died during that pause, so we’re asking him to come back to the table,” Pelosi said.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans generally say a new stimulus bill is needed, but they disagree on the scope of it. Some Republicans are opposed to another round of checks directly to most taxpayers, and some don’t want Washington to “bail out” state and local governments that had financial struggles before the pandemic.

As November ends, Pelosi continues to eye a bill in excess of $2 trillion while McConnell is looking for a much smaller package in the neighborhood of $500 billion.

At issue is a huge virus relief bill that would send another direct payment, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to state and local governments, a Democratic priority.

A $1.8 trillion rescue plan in March passed the House virtually unanimously. The larger Pelosi-pushed package has run into resolute opposition from Republicans. Taking care of the issue would clear the decks for a fresh start on the congressional agenda next year.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell continued to push for new relief earlier this month saying, “I think we’ll have a stronger recovery if we can just get at least some more fiscal support.”

If no agreement can be reached in the next few months, a deal will fall on Biden’s new administration. Economic recovery is listed as one of his “day one priorities” on the Biden-Harris transition website. There is no direct mention of stimulus checks on the economic recovery plan outlined.

However, the president-elect has said that “we must spend whatever it takes, without delay, to meet public health needs and deal with the mounting economic consequence,” but he did not specify a stimulus payment amount.

Along with expanding free COVID-19 testing, mounting a national emergency effort, and funding state and local governments, part of his plan also calls for emergency paid leave covering 100% of weekly salaries or average weekly earnings capped at $1,400 a week.

Eligible recipients include sick workers, workers caring for family or loved ones, those with increased risk of health complications from COVID-19, domestic workers, caregivers, gig economy workers and independent contractors. Parents dealing with school closings would be eligible for paid leave as well as child care assistance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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