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Congressional leaders try to close gaps on new COVID aid deal, including stimulus payments

House Majority Leader: 'This will not be the last statement, or act, bill, that we will pass in response to the economic consequences and the health consequences of this epidemic.'

Published: December 16, 2020 4:41pm

Updated: December 17, 2020 12:59pm

Congressional leaders and the White House are getting closer to an agreement on a coronavirus stimulus package that could total about $900 billion.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers outlined two proposals on Monday — one for $748 billion in coronavirus relief funding that didn't include direct payments and a separate bill with $160 billion of state and local funding that included liability protections for businesses.

House and Senate leadership are debating the contents of the proposals as they negotiate the final details of a stimulus package.

According to a congressional source, stimulus payments are likely to be added into the final negotiated stimulus package but the amount has not been determined. It is also unclear if undocumented immigrants who file tax returns with tax ID numbers in lieu of Social Security numbers would be eligible to qualify for the payments.

Undocumented immigrants did not qualify for direct payments in the CARES Act but the previous House-passed $3 trillion HEROES Act and the revised $2.2 trillion version of the bill would have allowed them to collect payments.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer noted Wednesday that regular appropriations for the federal government expire on Friday at midnight. He indicated that the House might pass a continuing appropriations bill along with a stimulus bill in advance of the deadline. If needed, he said the House would pass a short-term extension of government funding for 3 or 4 days to allow negotiators more time to agree on a COVID-19 stimulus deal.

Hoyer said he’s “hopeful” that state and local funding would be part of the negotiated stimulus package that the House winds up passing. He expressed opposition to liability protections for business.

“I am hopeful that state and local will be included. Obviously, whether that could happen in the light of Senator McConnell's absolute opposition to state and local unless he gets a liability provision, which we think would undermine consumers and undermine patients; undermine students of schools; undermine generally the American people in terms of their rights to redress of grievance, if in fact, they're injured through the negligence of others,” he said on a call with reporters on Wednesday. “And we think that's a bedrock fundamental of our country.”

Hoyer described the next stimulus package as short-term relief for the next 3 to 4 months and said Congress would revisit additional stimulus under President-elect Joe Biden.

“I would remind everybody, that just a few days, from now, a little over a month from now, we're going to have a new president of the United States, we will have a new Congress of the United States,” he said. “And this will not be the last statement, or act, bill, that we will pass in response to the economic consequences and the health consequences of this epidemic, this pandemic.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that he has been working alongside Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Pelosi and the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on the next package.

"We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” he said.

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