U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell listen as U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a news conference after the Republicans’ weekly senate luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 8, 2020. Sarah Silbiger/Pool via REUTERS

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

So close and yet so far. 

Lawmakers scrambled to approve a stimulus package worth nearly $1 trillion as of Friday afternoon, but a looming midnight deadline for a spending bill and a few sticky details threatened to pause negotiations. It was uncertain when Congress would vote on the plan. It was also unknown whether lawmakers will be able to tie the stimulus package to a $1.4 trillion spending bill Congress needs to pass by the time the government runs out of money at midnight. 

Members of Congress seemed determined to avoid a shutdown, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer telling reporters Friday afternoon, “We’re going to keep the government open,” and Republican Sen. John Cornyn saying that a shutdown “would be a mistake.” However, as of late Friday afternoon, CNN reported that Republican Whip John Thune called a shutdown “a likely conclusion,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was searching for a two-day stopgap that would keep the government open. 

Lawmakers agree on many central elements, including more than $300 billion in aid to businesses; a $300-per-week bonus federal unemployment benefit and renewal of state benefits; $600 direct payments to individuals; vaccine distribution funds and money for renters, schools, the Postal Service and people needing food. Other potential obstacles were hurdled as well, including White House aides who convinced President Donald Trump to drop a demand for $2,000 stimulus checks.

Yet there were hangups, including a Republican effort to cut off the Federal Reserve’s ability to restart pandemic relief programs and limit the central bank’s ability to fight future financial crises. Democrats opposed the idea because they believe it would limit President-elect Joe Biden power to deal with the recession caused by the pandemic. Lawmakers reached a deal on another sticking point Friday when Democrats agreed to take direct aid for state and local governments out of the package in exchange for Republicans dropping their demand for liability protection for businesses. They expect to take up those issues after the new Congress and administration arrives in January. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Pandemic Inflation – National Review – 12/17/2020
Congress is nearing a deal on a second major COVID-19 stimulus bill, which would put $900 billion in the hands of American consumers through cash transfers and enhanced unemployment insurance. That would bring 2020’s fiscal stimulus spending to $3 trillion, on top of the trillions in Federal Reserve lending.

Fed fight spills into stimulus talks on pivotal day – Politico – 12/18/2020
Congress is going right up to the midnight shutdown deadline as leaders desperately try to clinch a $900 billion coronavirus aid package and keep the government open during a debilitating pandemic.

McConnell will make a stimulus deal to boost Senate Republicans — but not Trump? – The Week – 12/18/2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided he supports a second, likely smaller round of pandemic stimulus checks for the American public. 

Evicted During the Pandemic – New York Times – 12/18/2020
The pandemic and the joblessness it created have made this situation more acute. Many American renters are in a deep debt hole with their landlords.

Republicans for Recession – The New Republic – 12/17/2020
Do congressional Republicans want to prolong the recession to hurt President-elect Joe Biden?

McConnell: COVID-19 relief talks making ‘significant headway’ as shutdown deadline looms – The Washington Times – 12/18/2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “optimistic” for a bipartisan coronavirus deal Friday as negotiations made “significant headway.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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