Congress passed a spending bill that gives it another week to try to agree on a coronavirus stimulus package before Christmas, but there are no signs they will be able to strike an agreement in that time.
The two parties have been negotiating for months without coming to an agreement, and the same issues that have keep them deadlocked still remain.
Millions of people will lose access to federal assistance programs if a deal is not struck before the end of the year.
Congress passed a short-term spending bill to give itself another week to try and strike a coronavirus stimulus deal, but the same sticking points between Democrats and Republicans remain.
On Friday, the Senate passed a one-week extension of government funding to avoid a government shutdown, which gives Congress another week to try and agree on an economic relief package. The House had approved the extension on Wednesday.
Negotiations between the two parties have been taking place for months without resulting in any new deal. Republicans appear unlikely to support a bipartisan compromise proposal that’s currently favored by Democrats.
So while the spending bill allows Congress to pass a new deal before Christmas – and to avoid the expiration of federal assistance programs that support millions of people – few signs point to what kind of a deal could be agreed in the week.
Republicans have signaled that they will not support the $908 billion bipartisan plan, which is still being negotiated.
Staff for House Majority Mitch McConnell said that party members want greater liability protections for businesses and object to funding state and local governments’ proposals, The New York Times reported.
And Democrats have rejected the White House’s $916 billion proposal, instead saying that the bipartisan plan is the only proposal that has a chance of passing before the end of the year.
But the same sticking points between the parties remain: Democrats want to give states assistance, while Republicans want liability protections for businesses.
The Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that Republicans have suggested removing both provisions from a deal to pass a narrower package. Democrats have opposed the idea, believing state and local governments need the support due to the pandemic.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat leading the bipartisan group working on the $908 billion deal, said the negotiators want to keep both provisions in their plan.
“We’re still working. Nothing is coming out,” he said, the Journal reported.
And Sen. Chris Coons, also a Democrat, noted that the debate around liability protections had already been taking place for months, with little progress made.
“We’ve had an eight-month impasse around liability issues and it is proving extremely difficult to close that distance,” he said, according to the Journal.
The Journal reported that Democrats had proposed an alternative to Republicans’ liability demands, but it is not clear if Republicans will accept it.
The bipartisan plan is itself a compromise proposal intended to strike a middle ground that both parties could support: Democrats had been arguing for a $2.2 trillion relief plan, while Republicans argued for smaller packages.
Congress is also negotiating a larger government spending package. As Business Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig previously reported, Congressional leaders have said they want to attach the relief plan to this spending package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Thursday that coronavirus stimulus negotiations could continue over Christmas if lawmakers don’t reach a deal.
The $908 billion bipartisan plan does not include new stimulus checks.
But Sens. Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley are pushing for a separate vote on another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans who earn up to $75,000.
John Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, said that Congress could approve another round of checks if Democrats’ desire for state and local government funding is dropped from the stimulus package.
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