A bipartisan group of senators unveil a compromise $908 billion stimulus plan that omits a 2nd round of stimulus checks

A bipartisan group of senators unveil a compromise $908 billion stimulus plan that omits a 2nd round of stimulus checks
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a $908 billion stimulus plan that contains federal unemployment benefits but omits another round of $1,200 direct payments for taxpayers.
  • The plan also includes aid for strapped state and local governments.
  • The compromise package represents a concerted effort to break the deadlock on Capitol Hill on another coronavirus relief plan, but its unclear whether it will gain traction.

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a $908 billion stimulus plan on Tuesday aimed at breaking the monthslong deadlock on Capitol Hill. It's a concerted effort that comes as Congress faces mounting pressure to act before the end of the year with the looming end of several programs keeping struggling people afloat.

The plan was introduced by a group of lawmakers that include Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine; and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. "Our action to provide emergency relief is needed now more than ever before," Manchin said at a press conference.

Provisions within the plan include:
  • $300 federal weekly unemployment benefits retroactive from Dec. 1 for 18 weeks.
  • $240 billion in new Paycheck Protection Program assistance for small businesses.
  • $160 billion in state and local government funding.
  • $51 billion in new healthcare and vaccine-related funds.
  • Temporary liability shield for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
But the compromise plan omitted another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, likely in an attempt to keep the plan's price tag under $1 trillion. A previous effort among Republicans to push for a stimulus package of that size failed in July because many GOP senators were reluctant to support a costly plan, pointing to the rising national debt.

Both Democrats and President Donald Trump support a second wave of direct payments for taxpayers.

Lawmakers have not passed another coronavirus relief bill since the spring when Congress pumped over $3 trillion to support individuals and businesses as the economy collapsed under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats ultimately went nowhere over the summer and in the runup to the election.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has for months touted a $500 billion relief plan that provides funding for schools, public health systems and small businesses. But Democrats blocked it twice and argue it's not enough to address the dual economic and health crises. They have sought at least $2.2 trillion in further spending.

The Trump administration has largely pulled out of the relief talks and put McConnell in charge. On Tuesday, McConnell said he was in conversations with the White House about designing a plan that could draw the support of President Donald Trump. He has largely been quiet on the matter since his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden. Read more: Lawmakers just unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus deal that would boost unemployment payments and help small businesses. Here's what's in the package.

The economy needs more government support, experts say

Most experts say the economy is in need of additional government support as it enters a perilous stretch of the pandemic. Coronavirus cases are surging nationwide, prompting states to renew restrictions in a bid to thwart the spread of the virus.

Nearly 12 million people are also at risk of losing all their jobless aid the day after Christmas if Congress doesn't step in. Other protections such as an eviction moratorium and a deferral of student loan payments are also expiring next month.

Ernie Tedeschi, policy economist at Evercore ISI, said the plan would help support people and businesses going into early next year as President-elect Joe Biden takes office. But he raised concern about attaching another expiration date for programs aiding the unemployed similar to how the CARES Act did in March.

"Cementing an end date for the package is a risk because we don't know how the virus is going to evolve," Tedeschi said in an interview. "The US is entering some tough winter months and March 31 will probably be the very beginning of vaccine distribution."

Some conservatives argue the US economy is recovering on its own, citing the unemployment rate which has fallen from a high of 14.7% in April to its current level of 6.9%.

"We don't need another trillion dollar spending bill, the economy is growing much faster than everyone thought," Steve Moore, an outside economic advisor to President Donald Trump, told Business Insider. "The stock market is booming and the only thing that's holding down the economy is these blue states that locking down their businesses."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday urged a compromise.

"We need to come together and come to an agreement that will not satisfy any one of us completely, but gets the job done," the New York Democrat said Tuesday on the Senate floor.