On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a stimulus package in the $900 billion ballpark.
The bipartisan package proposed by senators including Republicans Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, and Democrats Joe Manchin and Mark Warner, would come in around $908 billion. That is well below the $2.2 trillion price tag sought by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while far greater than the $500 billion packages voted on this fall by Senate Republicans, though the specifics of the deal are subject to change. Details of the deal were earlier reported by The Washington Post and Politico.
For starters, the bill sets aside $180 billion to pay out weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefits, which would be paid on top of state benefits. That would replace the weekly $600 enhanced unemployment benefits which expired in late July. In addition, the package would include $82 billion for education, $45 billion for transportation such as airlines, and $25 billion in housing assistance.
The stimulus deal would also include $160 billion in state and local government funding—well under the roughly $900 billion House Democrats had been seeking— and $288 billion in small business funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. The biggest item left out: Another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
“If there’s one thing I’m hearing uniformly it’s, ‘Congress, do not leave town for the holidays leaving the country and the economy adrift with all these initial CARES [Act] programs running out,’” Sen. Warner said Tuesday on CNBC.
It’s unclear if this bipartisan $900 billion economic aid package will gain traction. At the end of the day, the bill can’t go to a vote without the buy-in from Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Since talks started in July, Democratic and Republican leaders have been locked in a stalemate on the next stimulus package. Pelosi has called plans under $1 trillion “non-starters” and inadequate to meet the current economic situation. Additionally, some Democrats have viewed this as their only window to get aid dollars for fiscally-drained state and local municipalities—an area in which the bipartisan bill offers just a fraction of their asking price. And on the Republican side, they’ve become wary of another massive stimulus package given job gains: The unemployment rate sits at 6.9%, down from its peak of 14.7% in April.
On Tuesday, Pelosi will speak with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss a spending bill and coronavirus aid.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Mnuchin said he’d “urge Congress to pass something quickly to make sure we get something done in this session,” but it’s unclear if a deal could be struck before January, and many on Capitol Hill are skeptical. And the fate of the bill may well rest with the pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5 that will determine control of the Senate. If Republicans retain the Senate, Congress will be divided. If Democrats win the chamber, President-elect Joe Biden would enter office with all legislative bodies controlled by his party.