Bipartisan Stimulus Bill Split In Two, But Lawmakers Still Unsure If It Will Pass

Last week, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced a $908 billion stimulus package, which received support and criticism from members within both parties. On Monday, the group divided their offer into two bills — one that includes measures both parties back and a second that unites their two biggest concerns — in a last-ditch effort to pass a bill before 2020 ends.

 

“We’ve had a Christmas miracle occur in Washington,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who backs both parts. “I want to thank my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate for working so hard to bring us to this day.”

 

A $748 billion relief package contains measures supported by Democrats and Republicans, such as renewing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, providing an extra $300 per week in federal unemployment payments, protections for renters, student loan deferments, funding for virus testing and distribution, and more.

 

The other part is more limited, including just liability protections for organizations — which many Democrats referred to as a “poison pill” — and $160 to fund cash-strapped state and local governments. Republicans have disparaged the relief as a “blue state bailout.”  

 

Notably, stimulus checks are nowhere to be seen in either proposal — despite having the support from both parties, the White House, and the public.

 

In an interview with Yahoo Money, former congressional staffer and Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute senior fellow said, “The split could help Leader McConnell with the process. But it is unclear what happens if the Senate passes the smaller bill and the House adds back in the state and local aid.”

 

Last week, McConnell introduced the $748 billion as part of a compromise between both sides of the aisle, telling reporters, “What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local and pass those things that we can agree on. We’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

 

At first, Democratic leaders rejected the Senate Majority Leader’s offer. But some important members of the House have indicated they’re prepared to compromise on a narrower bill. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told CNN Sunday he would accept an offer without state and local aid to “get the essential done.” 

 

“We think state and local is important, and if we can get that, we want to get it,” he continued. “But we want to get aid out to the people who are really, really struggling and are at grave risk.”

 

Without more relief, nearly 12 million Americans will lose vital unemployment insurance when the PUA and PEUC expire at the end of the month. In addition, the federal eviction ban, paid sick leave, funding for states and cities, and other financial lifelines will also end.

 

The $784 billion bilateral deal is considerably smaller than the lofty $2.2 trillion HEROES Act the House approved last May and a step down from the $908 billion version outlined last week. Whether lawmakers manage to pass a measure during the lame-duck session depends on Democrats’ willingness to accept the offer. But it’s uncertain if they will since it has just $188 billion in new money.

 

“Impossible to predict with any level of confidence,” Harkins remarked. “This could be what kills the entire effort.”

 

Meanwhile, data from a recent Yahoo Finance-Harris poll found that two in three Americans consider another round of direct payments the most critical benefit in the next stimulus package. The survey also concluded that less than 1 in 4 respondents (23%) back liability protections and 1 in 5 support student loan deferrals.

 

Gbenga Ajilore, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, told Yahoo Money, “The liability shield just doesn’t make sense to people. People don’t understand why that would be a priority. A liability shield is not going to put food on the table, it’s not going to keep people in their homes.”

 

A second poll revealed similar results, with 7 in 10 respondents supporting another round of stimulus checks. 70% of Americans anticipated and budgeted that lawmakers would provide more assistance between August and December. 

 

“It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption that Congress would pass some sort of relief,” Ajilore stated. “What’s unreasonable is the fact that they haven’t.”

 

Sources
  • Tsekova, Denitsa. “Americans Reject McConnell Stimulus Deal ‘Red Line’.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 14 Dec. 2020, money.yahoo.com/most-americans-want-stimulus-checks-181437407.html.
  • Tsekova, Denitsa. “Bipartisan Group Splits Stimulus Proposal into Two Parts, Calls It ‘a Christmas Miracle’.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 14 Dec. 2020, money.yahoo.com/bipartisan-group-splits-stimulus-220109280.html.
Ian Schindler