Congress has delayed a vote on stimulus and government funding — again.
Although lawmakers were originally facing a self-imposed December 18 deadline to get both things done, they’ve postponed it once more by passing another short-term spending bill on Friday. Because Congressional leaders had extended a previous deadline on government funding, they just approved a two-day addition. Now, the House and the Senate have a bit more time to pass the spending legislation and the stimulus bill they intend to attach to it.
The latest continuing resolution is set to keep the government funded through the end of the day on Sunday, December 20. Lawmakers have said they hope to have ironed out their differences on a coronavirus relief agreement by then, with House leaders signaling that the earliest vote they plan to hold would take place Sunday afternoon.
“I think we’re very close to getting an agreement, I think two more days would allow us the time to get it done and allow time for people to be able to read,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Friday.
Top lawmakers from both parties hadn’t begun negotiations on this stimulus agreement in earnest until earlier this week, with the end of the term looming over them. (The $1.4 trillion government funding bill, meanwhile, has proven less contentious.)
The anticipated stimulus legislation, which is expected to net out at around $900 billion, won’t include the controversial corporate liability protections, nor will it include state and local aid provisions, though it is poised to contain more funding for unemployment insurance, small business support, and another round of stimulus checks.
Lawmakers now have two days to work through the remaining sticking points.
What’s still being worked on
Although the most contested provisions have been stripped from the bill, there are still some issues that lawmakers are debating.
As the Washington Post reports, some of the ongoing negotiations center on the number of weeks of expanded unemployment insurance (UI) the bill would cover: While a prior bipartisan draft had provided an additional $300 in UI for 16 weeks, the amount of coverage in a final compromise bill could be much shorter.
There’s also an ongoing disagreement over the amount that would be included in another round of stimulus checks, with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) pushing for $1,200 payments while the leadership plan initially offered $600 options. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Friday opposed $1,200 payments twice and cited concerns about gains to the deficit, an issue on which most Americans disagree with him.
Despite these delays, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have emphasized that they’re committed to getting more stimulus done, even if it means staying in session longer. There are, of course, no guarantees they will wrap up discussions by Sunday. At this point, it’s been nine months since lawmakers passed their last major relief package, nine months in which millions of people have been laid off and tens of thousands of businesses have grappled with closing.