Congress leaders are nearing agreement on a $ 900 billion COVID bill with incentive controls

Washington – Congress leaders are nearing an agreement on a coronavirus relief package that would include another round of direct payments to Americans just days before the deadline to extend government funding and with critical utilities expiring at the end of the month.

The emerging deal would likely cost about $ 900 billion, a source familiar with the negotiations told CBS News, with controversial provisions on funding for state and local governments and liability protections for set aside companies.

The deal would include two popular provisions that were part of the CARES law passed in the spring: direct checks to Americans with pay below a certain threshold, and a weekly benefit on top of unemployment insurance. It is unclear how much money would be involved in the checks, or what the final figure for unemployment benefits would be.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Met for hours on Tuesday in the evening to strike a deal, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participating by phone.

Schumer told reporters on Wednesday that negotiators are “very close” to a deal.

“We’re really close. We’re making really good progress. We’re feeling pretty good,” said Schumer.

The framework these leaders are negotiating is largely based on a $ 748 billion proposal introduced by a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators. The proposal included an additional $ 300 per week on top of unemployment insurance, significantly lower than the $ 600 per week set by the CARES law, which expired in late July.

This group had also put forward a $ 160 billion proposal, including funding for state and local governments, which is crucial for Democrats, and corporate and institutional liability shields, a priority for McConnell. But the four congressional leaders now seem likely to agree to a second round of stimulus checks and other aid, disregarding national and local funding and liability protection. The source familiar with the negotiations said in a latest bill that aid to state and local governments would be available through “other avenues.”

McConnell took an optimistic tone that a deal could be reached Wednesday morning in a speech on the Senate floor.

“We have made great strides in pushing out a targeted pandemic relief package that could pass both chambers by a two-part majority,” said the Republican leader. “We have committed to continue these urgent discussions until we reach an agreement. And we have agreed that we will not leave the city until we have made laws. ‘

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, one of the chief negotiators on the bipartisan bill, told CBS News on Wednesday that he expected the direct checks to be $ 600 to keep the bill’s price tag at about $ 900 billion. Manchin also noted that the unemployment benefits would only last 16 weeks, and said negotiations should continue when Congress meets again in January.

“They can come back in January when Joe Biden becomes president, and look at the emergency needs we have left. This is a bailout, it’s not all, but it’s not all,” said Manchin.

The bill is expected to be linked to an omnibus spending bill, to be passed before government funding expires next Friday. The legislation must also be signed by President Trump by midnight on December 18 to avoid a shutdown.

Nancy Cordes, Alan He and John Nolen contributed to the reporting.