Congress is rushing to pass a 2-day funding extension to buy more time for stimulus negotiations and avoid a government shutdown

schumer pelosi mcconnell hoyer mccarthy
From left to right: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

  • Another government shutdown looms after lawmakers failed to strike a deal on both a government funding bill and a economic relief package.
  • A number of policy disagreements continue to crop up, with one leading GOP senator describing the talks as “whack-a-mole.”
  • Hangups appear to include stimulus checks, federal aid to states through a FEMA program, and Federal Reserve lending programs.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Congressional leaders on Friday sought to pass a two-day funding extension to keep the government open – and buy more time in a last-ditch effort to strike an elusive deal on a $900 billion federal rescue package by Sunday.

Both chambers must pass another stopgap spending bill, but it is unclear whether they would be able to do so before the clock struck midnight. The House of Representatives was expected to vote on it Friday evening.

The Senate has a different set of rules. Under the procedure known as unanimous consent, legislation requires support from every senator, meaning it only takes one to block it. Failure to pass the spending bill in both chambers and get a signature from President Donald Trump would lead to a partial government shutdown.

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said earlier on Friday he would oppose the stopgap spending bill unless he received more details about a fresh round of stimulus checks that are expected to be part of the relief legislation. But later in the day Hawley indicated his concerns were addressed and he would not oppose the short-term spending bill.

“I have been assured by Senate GOP leadership that #COVID direct assistance to working people IS in the #covid relief bill under negotiation & will remain,” he tweeted. “And on that basis, I will consent to a brief continuing resolution to allow negotiations to conclude.”

A lapse in funding could have little impact on agency operations if Congress resolves their impasse over the weekend. Bill Hoagland, a budget expert and senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said essential personnel such as air traffic controllers, safety regulators, and airport security personnel would still report to work.

“A weekend shutdown, we’ve had them before,” Hoagland said in an interview. “They are not as nearly as disruptive as it would be if it began during the workweek for the American public.”

Under the weekend shutdown scenario, he said federal agencies would commence closing down on Monday if Congress failed to pass a short-term funding bill. But Hoagland said he considered that possibility unlikely given the immense pressure lawmakers are under to quickly get federal aid out the door.

Leaders in both parties came out against the idea of allowing government funding to lapse on Friday as well. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “I’m not for a shutdown in any shape or form.” That sentiment was echoed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, who said, “we’re going to keep the government open.”

A stimulus deal reached by late Friday would be “a triumph of hope over experience”

Congressional leaders are struggling to close policy disagreements which have hobbled negotiations for several months. They are scrambling to settle those differences in a matter of days, and the talks appear very likely to slip into the weekend.

Sen. John Thune, the second-ranked Senate Republican, said anticipation of a deal struck by Friday evening would be “a triumph of hope over experience” and suggested a vote on a relief package could come early next week.

“I was thinking best case scenario of getting something voted on was  going probably to be Sunday but it may be later than that,” Thune told reporters on Capitol Hill.

The hangups appear to include the details around a fresh round of stimulus payments for Americans, emergency aid to states and municipalities, and the Federal Reserve’s lending powers. But Congressional leaders are still citing continued progress in the talks.

During a speech on the Senate floor on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “even more optimistic right now than I was last night” about reaching an agreement and added negotiations “remained productive.”

“The Senate will be right here until an agreement is passed, whenever that may be,” he said.

The scope of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs is emerging as a last-minute sticking point in the fast-moving talks. Republicans led by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are seeking to cut off the central bank’s lending ability past December 31, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin set in motion last month.

Toomey, the incoming chair of the Senate Banking Committee, called it “a bright red line” for him in the relief legislation earlier this week. Those programs have backstopped the economy, supporting markets for corporate bonds and providing loans to state and local governments as well as medium-sized businesses.

But Democrats argue the move would stymie President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to stabilize the economy during a prolonged downturn. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell also previously said he would continue the programs into next year, but the Trump administration stepped in to end them after Dec. 31.

Congress is running up against more deadlines that could have more dire implications for many Americans if it fails to strike a deal, get President Donald Trump’s signature and enact it into law soon. Around 14 million people are threatened with the loss of unemployment aid within two weeks if certain federal programs are not renewed. 

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White House aides reportedly stepped in to keep Trump from calling for $2,000 stimulus checks fearing it could torpedo relief negotiations

Donald Trump wildcard
US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on December 7, 2020.

President Donald Trump’s advisors talked him out of calling for $2,000 stimulus checks in the next federal rescue package since it could derail the ongoing relief negotiations on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post reported.

The newspaper cited two sources familiar with the events.

The Post reported that Trump held a phone call with allies when he said he wanted stimulus payments to be “at least” $1,200 and perhaps as large as $2,000. Congressional leaders are currently drafting a $900 billion emergency relief package with $600 stimulus payments for Americans, half of the $1,200 amount distributed in March and April through an earlier pandemic aid package.

Trump was in the midst of outlining his desire when White House officials told him the move would capsize the negotiations between top Republicans and Democrats, which appear likely to slip into the weekend. Republicans are trying to keep the price tag of a relief package under $1 trillion, and larger direct payments could swell the legislation’s cost well beyond that.

An anonymous source told the Post that “aides were really frantic, saying: ‘We can’t do this; it will blow up negotiations.'”

Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, told The Post that Trump supports large relief payments for struggling Americans.

“The President has heard from Americans all over the country who are hurting through no fault of their own, and he’s made clear he wants the next round of relief to include stimulus checks at a significant number,” he said. “We’re working with Congress to settle on an agreement that can pass as soon as possible.”

In the run-up to the election, Trump sought a large relief package and suggested at times he could support one bigger than the $2.2 trillion amount that Democrats wanted. But Republicans didn’t follow suit and repeatedly threw cold water over his demands. They instead opted to push for a $500 billion relief package that Democrats blocked twice.

The president’s position on stimulus has veered wildly in the past and he has been largely quiet on the subject since his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump, though, has indicated recently he still backs large stimulus checks. “Right now, I want to see checks – for more money than they’re talking about – going to people,” he told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday.

The White House jumped into the stimulus negotiations last week with a $916 billion offer, and it included $600 stimulus checks for people. But Democrats panned its exclusion of federal unemployment benefits.

On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have led calls to include stimulus checks, which were initially left out of a bipartisan plan now under consideration. Progressive lawmakers in the House have also ramped up their drive to include sizable stimulus payments in the next relief package.

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Here are 3 ways the $748 billion stimulus package could aid millions of unemployed Americans

Unemployment filing coronavirus
  • Congress is scrambling to pass an emergency relief package this week as the economy shows signs of strain.
  • Around 13 million people stand to lose all jobless aid if lawmakers fail to renew certain federal programs.
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a plan on Tuesday that could aid unemployed people with new $300 federal unemployment benefits and an extension of another program covering gig workers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nearly 13 million Americans could lose all their jobless aid at the end of the month if Congress doesn’t renew federal unemployment programs that it set up in the spring.

Lawmakers in both parties are scrambling this week to enact another emergency relief package before adjourning until January. A bipartisan group of largely centrist senators on Monday unveiled a $748 billion package that could aid unemployed people going into next year.

Here are 3 of its key provisions for the unemployed:

  • $300 weekly enhanced unemployment insurance for 16 weeks from the end of December until April 19, 2021.
  • An 16-week extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers until April 19.
  • Extra 16 weeks until April 19 in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides payouts to people whose state benefits have dried up.

This part of the federal rescue package could either be approved by Congress or attached to a year-end annual $1.4 trillion spending bill that would keep the government funded until early next year. Lawmakers have until midnight Friday to approve another spending bill or many parts of the government would start shutting down.

Other parts of the package could also provide critical relief to out-of-work Americans. The legislation also proposes extending the eviction moratorium set to lapse on December 31 for an extra month while providing $25 billion in rental assistance for people who fell behind on their rent payments.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group, said in a statement on Tuesday that President-elect Joe Biden could extend the moratorium once he’s in office.

But the crawling pace of relief negotiations may guarantee millions of unemployed people lose their federal aid for a period of time, experts say, since unemployment systems are difficult to readjust.

“Even if a deal passes this week, we’re looking at a lapse in UI for many many workers and a lag in paying out an FPUC top-off if there is one,” Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy advisor at Employ America, wrote on Twitter, referring the formal name for federal unemployment benefits.

“4 million workers have exhausted UI already. There’s another 9 million waiting in the wings for the next two weeks. Getting those folks back in a system with a faulty foundation (at best) isn’t an overnight thing,” she said in a follow-up tweet.

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Trump wants Congress to approve stimulus checks for ‘more money than they’re talking about’

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President Donald Trump.

  • As his presidency nears its end, Donald Trump is once again asking Congress to include another round of coronavirus stimulus checks in the next relief package.
  • “Right now, I want to see checks — for more money than they’re talking about — going to people,” Trump said in a Fox News interview that aired Sunday.
  • Members of Congress are engaged in talks about a $908 billion bipartisan relief package that does not include any money for additional stimulus checks. 
  • It’s unclear whether Congress will pass this package before the Biden administration takes over on January 20.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is spending his final weeks in office urging Congress to include another round of coronavirus stimulus checks in the next relief package.

Speaking to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, Trump said he wants stimulus checks to be approved for “more money” than the options currently on the table. 

“I’m pushing it very hard, and to be honest with you, if the Democrats really wanted to do the deal, they’d do the deal,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Sunday morning

“Right now, I want to see checks – for more money than they’re talking about – going to people,” he added.

After months of stalemate and inconclusive discussions, Congress has once again resumed relief talks, this time turning to a $908 billion bipartisan package that does not include any money for stimulus checks. 

In October, the Democratic-led House passed a $2.2 trillion package. But Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck it down and proposed a $500 billion bill as an alternative option. Then discussions reached another stalemate, as Democrats disagreed with the severe downsize in the amount of money allocated and Republicans refused to budge higher.

The last time Congress passed a stimulus was in May, which gave millions of Americans $1,200 each to offset the financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic. Since then, various signs, such as a dip in grocery spending, have suggested that Americans are hurting for cash.

With President-elect Joe Biden scheduled to take office on January 20, it’s unclear whether Congress will even negotiate the $908 billion measure in time for the bill to make it to Trump.

The proposal was intended to be a compromise between the two parties. But Republican lawmakers, including McConnell, are signaling that they are opposed to the package

The Republican Senate leader said Trump would not want to sign off on the current package as it stands.

“At the risk of repeating something we all know, making law will require not just the Senate’s approval, but also the signature of the President of the United States,” McConnell said in a statement earlier this month.

He said his own plan – which is a slimmed-down version of the $908 billion proposal – would go through.

As Business Insider’s Mia Jankowicz reported, neither the $908 billion package nor McConnell’s proposal includes additional money for another round of stimulus checks. 

The White House has been pushing for a second round of checks for weeks. 

Two senators are echoing the president’s pleas to Congress. Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Sen. John Hawley have teamed up to urge Congress to allocate enough money in the next stimulus bill to cut every American who earns up to $75,000 a $1,200 check.

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Coronavirus relief talks are hanging by a thread at a perilous moment for millions of Americans

US flag hanging by a thread
An American flag hangs upside down outside Union Station in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020

  • Relief talks are now hanging by a thread, with a path forward increasingly unclear.
  • Republicans and Democrats are struggling to reconcile longstanding differences on the scope of an aid package.
  • State aid and a liability shield for businesses to guard them from virus-related lawsuits are two of the main roadblocks.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Relief talks on an economic aid package in Congress kicked off with a flurry of activity last week after months of gridlock. A bipartisan $908 billion proposal drew Democratic support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – a big decrease from their past demands for at least $2.2 trillion in spending. 

Yet many Republicans have not budged from their calls for a slimmer aid package that prioritizes assistance to small businesses, schools and for vaccine distribution. Now, it is unclear where a compromise takes shape with only nine days left until the end of the congressional session.

The negotiations appeared to be hanging by a thread on Wednesday as lawmakers from both parties struggled to settle longstanding differences and finalize a rescue package. A bipartisan group of moderate senators released a summary of their $908 billion proposal earlier in the day.

The six-page summary was sparsely detailed on two fiercely contested issues: aid to state and local governments and a liability shield to guard businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. It highlighted the inability of lawmakers to bridge longstanding differences as the clock runs out this month on numerous federal aid programs assisting millions of struggling Americans.

There was no guarantee an economic assistance bill would get a floor vote either, since Pelosi and Schumer only called it “the starting point” for negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has plainly dismissed it so far. 

McConnell on Tuesday offered to set aside GOP demands to include a liability shield in exchange for Democrats dropping aid to state and local governments. Democrats opposed it, and Schumer accused McConnell of trying to “sabotage” the talks.

Meanwhile, Congressional leaders are aiming to attach a relief package to a broader spending bill to fund the government into next year, known as an “omnibus.”

“They’ve come up with some ideas and I think there are many things that they’re talking about could be put in the omnibus, but the fact is we’re not going to have a standalone COVID-19 bill,” Sen. John Cornyn, a senior Republican, told reporters on Wednesday. “It will be part of the omnibus if it’s there at all.”

The bipartisan group of senators, which includes Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, also face growing calls from both parties to include another round of $1,200 checks in the next stimulus.

The turmoil of the negotiations was amplified when the Trump administration jumped in with its own $916 billion stimulus offer on Tuesday evening, its first engagement on economic aid since October. The unexpected move threatened to blow up the fragile relief talks since the White House plan slashed the proposed amount for unemployment insurance from $180 billion to $40 billion.

Democrats condemned it. Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement the bipartisan talks were “the best hope for a bipartisan solution.”

The tense relief negotiations are taking place against the backdrop of an ailing US economy and looming financial calamity for many individuals. An eviction moratorium is set to lapse on December 31, and up to 40 million people are at risk of losing their homes in the coming months.

A note from Moody’s Analytics indicates 12 million Americans will owe nearly $5,850 in back rent if the moratorium isn’t extended.

Nearly 12 million Americans also face losing their unemployment aid if Congress doesn’t renew Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers or another federal program extending state benefits for people who already depleted them.

Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy advisor for Employ America, told Business Insider it was likely too late for Congress to prevent the loss of unemployment benefits for some jobless people this month. She warned it takes several weeks to recalibrate antiquated unemployment systems to provide new federal benefits.

“We needed to do this before Thanksgiving,” she said.

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The White House is reportedly pressing Senate Republicans to include a $600 stimulus check for Americans in the next relief package

mitch mcconnell trump
  • The White House is pressing to include $600 stimulus checks in the next pandemic aid package, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
  • It reflects the increasing calls on Capitol Hill to include the relief payments in a $908 billion pandemic aid package that omitted them.
  • Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Josh Hawley are pressing for stimulus checks in Congress.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House is reportedly pressing top Senate Republicans to include a $600 stimulus check for Americans in the next virus relief package, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing two sources familiar with private discussions.

The amount is half of the $1,200 direct payments sent to millions of Americans earlier this year through the CARES Act that Congress. It was not clear whether Democrats would get onboard with the idea.

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The development reflects the growing calls on Capitol Hill among Democrats and some Republican to include a fresh wave of stimulus payments in the next rescue package.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is spearheading a group of Democratic senators in pushing to include relief checks for Americans. The framework of the $908 billion economic aid plan omitted them.

“The American people need help and they need help now,” Sanders and some fellow Democrats said in a letter obtained by Business Insider. “We agree with President-elect Biden that a $1,200 direct payment should be included in this proposal.” 

Sanders indicated last week he would reject the proposal unless it includes the checks and tosses out the liability shield for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. At a press conference, Senate minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats backed the direct payments, but said it should be added onto the latest package instead of traded off for another measure.

Negotiators are crafting the legislative text of the plan, which they are trying to keep under $1 trillion to garner more support from Republicans.

Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has emerged as a prominent Republican urging another wave of relief payments. “I’m continuing to be flummoxed as to why there aren’t any direct payments. Everybody supported this in March,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday.  “It’s the most useful, helpful, and frankly popular aspect.”

He called the development of the White House supporting $600 checks “progress” in a tweet on Tuesday, but maintained his support for the $1,200 direct payments.

In March, Congress and President Donald Trump authorized $1,200 checks for millions of American taxpayers earning up to $75,000 annually, plus an extra $500 per child under 17. The cash amount diminished until being phased out for those making above $99,000. Married couples earning up to $150,000 a year also qualified for the full payment.

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Congress will try to buy more time for stimulus negotiations by voting on a one-week extension of government funding until December 18

pelosi mcconnell stimulus checks
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the chamber would vote on a one-week extension of government funding to buy more time for relief negotiations.
  • “I am disappointed that we have not yet reached agreement on government funding,” Hoyer said on Monday.
  • Congress is aiming to attach a coronavirus relief bill to the must-pass spending package this month.
  • The bipartisan group of senators crafting the $908 billion relief package may release the legislation on Tuesday at the earliest.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Congress will vote on Wednesday on a one-week extension of to buy more time for coronavirus relief negotiations, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

“I am disappointed that we have not yet reached agreement on government funding,” Hoyer, the chamber’s number two Democrat, tweeted on Monday. “The House will vote on Wednesday on a one-week CR to keep government open while negotiations continue.”

The move would keep the federal government funded until December 18. Another short-term spending package or large-scale omnibus bill must be passed by then or result in a shutdown.

On Capitol Hill, the chamber’s number two Democrat said both parties must engage in some trade-offs as negotiators continue work on an emergency federal rescue package.

“We have to come together and have some give and take,” Hoyer told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday, per pool reports. “But not getting a deal done – it’s not an option from my perspective.”

The Washington Post reported that negotiations on a government funding bill are being held up by strong disagreements on numerous policy issues, notably immigration. Lawmakers are aiming to attach a coronavirus relief package to the critical spending bill this month.

But the newspaper reported that legislative text for the $908 billion bipartisan framework may come Tuesday at the earliest. It’s expected to include $300 federal weekly unemployment benefits, a fresh round of small business aid, as well as assistance for state and local governments. But it will likely exclude a second wave of $1,200 stimulus checks

President Donald Trump may support the final rescue package depending on its design, his top economic advisor said on Monday.

“I believe that it is likely he will, but it depends on some of the policy details inside,” Kudlow said Monday at a Washington Post Live event. “I stress it’s not the aggregate number so much as it is the specific policies that would be discussed and proposed.”

He struck an optimistic tone about the trajectory of relief talks so far: “We are moving in the right direction I think, we’re getting closer.”

Read more: Market wizard Chris Camillo grew his trading account by $9.7 million in 2020. Here’s the simple strategy he’s using to mint millions.

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