Prospects for Capitol Hill approval by Friday’s closing deadline as leaders continue to negotiate an emergency relief deal

With less than two days left, lawmakers are now discussing the possibility of extending the closing deadline again so there is more time to negotiate a deal and push it through the House and Senate. The two issues are linked, as leaders want to link the emergency relief deal with a $ 1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open until September next year.

So unless things change quickly, the final consideration of the massive measure could move to the weekend or early next week.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer said on Wednesday that he thinks a stop-gap solution, known as an ongoing resolution, or CR, might be needed to gain time to finalize a deal. to round.

“The answer to that is clearly yes … I don’t want to close the government,” he said. “If someone asks me, would you support a CR, well what I won’t support is shutting down the government.”

The consensus on Capitol Hill is that after months of bickering and stalemate, there will be an outcome. But Congress is now stuck in a waiting game as the top four congressional leaders and the White House try to smooth out the fine print and negotiate the final details.

Details of what’s likely to be in the plan began to emerge Wednesday, though nothing is final until the legislative text is released.

The price tag could reach nearly $ 900 billion and is expected to include money for vaccine distribution and for schools, unemployment benefits of $ 300 a week, about $ 330 billion for small business loans, and a new round of incentive checks, which can be set at about $ 600 per person below a certain income limit.
While the proposal is also expected to include a $ 90 billion fund managed by FEMA to provide to states and cities, it won’t include a large pot of money for state and local governments that the Democrats had requested. It also doesn’t include lawsuit protections for companies and others created during the pandemic, a major priority of GOP.

Once a deal is revealed, congressional leaders will have to rally the rank and file and act as quickly as possible to bring the legislation up for discussion in both houses.

What drives the urgency in part: The Georgia Senate’s runoff races in January that will determine the next majority. During a phone call to his conference on Wednesday, Mitch McConnell, majority leader in the Senate, noted several times that the issue of direct payments has become a major issue in the races.

“Kelly and David are getting hammered,” McConnell said of his GOP colleagues, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Opposition from both sides

Now that both sides recognize that something has to succeed, they will almost certainly get the votes needed for approval. But they will be pushed back on both sides and the criticism has already begun to pour in.

Progressive lawmakers have voiced concern that the scope of incentive controls will not be large enough.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, warned in a speech on the ground Wednesday that the emerging agreement will be insufficient to address the devastating effects of the pandemic.

“This bill contains much that is good, but given the sheer magnitude of the crises we are facing, it simply does not go far enough anywhere,” Sanders said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sanders, who demanded $ 1,200 checks, praised the emerging proposal to include stimulus checks, although it is expected to be lower than he has pushed for, but said he would continue to demand more.

There will likely also be GOP concerns about the price tag.

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said “probably” when asked if it was too much money.

“I’m probably against it,” said GOP Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio.

If lawmakers pass an emergency landing law to prevent the government from closing, it will be the second time they have done so in a short space of time.

Last week, the House and Senate both passed a short-term financing bill to extend the closing deadline, which was set for December 11, by one week until next Friday, December 18 at midnight.