The two political divisions that have long hampered a stimulus deal – Republicans ‘insistence on sweeping away coronavirus protections and Democrats’ demands for an infusion of federal funds from states and cities facing budget crises – remain friction points.
Democrats and some Republicans have argued that providing another round of relief to cash-strapped state and local governments was essential to avoid laying off city workers. But many Republicans have ridiculed the proposal as a so-called Blue State bailout that could be used to close pre-existing budget deficits that resulted from mismanagement, not the economic fallout from the pandemic. Democrats have also warned that a broad shield of priority accountability by Republicans is a no-start, arguing that there has been no resurgence of pandemic-related lawsuits, and offering general protections against such lawsuits. would only serve to weaken the protection of workers.
Kentucky Republican and Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell suggested dropping the two provisions to get early agreement on a smaller package that would include funding for vaccine distribution and the Paycheck Protection Program, a popular loan for small businesses. But some lawmakers are reluctant to resort to this, citing the urgency to tackle the toll of the pandemic.
“These problems don’t go away,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is part of the group working on a bipartisan, $ 908 billion compromise framework. “On the contrary, they get fat. So if we can just stick with it, get a proposal that we can move forward that addresses not only goals like unemployment, PPP, food security, but also the state, local and tribal communities and the issue of accountability – that’s what we work for. sure. This is what we must continue to do. “
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. again signaled his support for a smaller relief package on Friday, saying at an event in Wilmington, Del., That “this relief package will not be the total answer even s ‘it’s adopted, but it’s an important first step. “
But the $ 908 billion framework that moderate lawmakers worked on remains unfinished, even after days of private meetings and negotiations. Delaware Democrat Senator Chris Coons told reporters that “it is proving extremely difficult to close” the gap in liability protection.
If a final agreement and legislation emerges, it should include some form of limited legal protection for coronavirus-related lawsuits, $ 160 billion in state and local funding, billions of dollars for schools, businesses and distribution of vaccines, and $ 300 per year. weeks of additional federal unemployment payments until spring.