Washington: Congressional negotiators are closing in on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package that would deliver additional help to businesses, $300-per-week jobless checks and $600 stimulus payments to most Americans. But there was no deal quite yet.
A hoped-for announcement Wednesday failed to materialize as lawmakers across the spectrum hammered out details of the sprawling legislation and top negotiators continued to trade offers.
It’s the first significant legislative response to the pandemic since the landmark CARES Act in March, which delivered $1.8 trillion in aid and more generous jobless benefits and direct payments to individuals.
President-elect Joe Biden is eager for an aid package to prop up the economy and deliver direct aid to the jobless and hungry, even though the package falls short of what Democrats want. He called the emerging version “an important down payment” and promised more help next year.
Republicans, too, are anxious to approve some aid before going home for the year.
“We’re still close and we’re gonna get there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Wednesday evening. And during a Senate GOP lunchtime call a day earlier, party leaders stressed the importance of reaching an agreement before the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.
The package has over $300 billion in subsidies for business, including a second round of “paycheck protection” payments to especially hard-hit businesses, as is $25 billion to help struggling renters with their payments and provide food aid and farm subsidies, and a $10 billion bailout for the Postal Service.
Meanwhile, a day after the Electoral College certified Joe Biden’s victory, Mitch McConnell congratulated him as President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. He also privately told his caucus not to object to the election result on January 6 when Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes.
Other Republican senators who publicly recognized Biden as president-elect have included Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Rob Portman, Roy Blunt and Shelley Moore Capito.
McConnell’s remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin belatedly congratulated Biden, and expressed hope that their two nations can contribute to solving many problems that the world is currently facing.
President Trump is yet to concede defeat and has support of some Republicans members in the House.