WASHINGTON — A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers is set to unveil a COVID-19 relief package that's much smaller than what has been proposed by House Democrats, but far larger than the offering from Senate Republican leaders.
A roughly $908 billion proposal set to be announced by nine senators and several House members Tuesday morning would provide, among other things, $240 billion for state and local governments; $300 billion for additional Paycheck Protection Program assistance to small businesses devastated by coronavirus-related shutdowns; and $180 billion to extend enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits at $300 per week for four months.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a member of the group, said Tuesday morning that extending expiring unemployment benefits was a critical piece of the package. Warner told CNBC that "we ought to not be leaving these folks in a lurch, literally the day after Christmas some of these benefits start to expire."
"I call it stupidity on steroids if we allow this additional package, whether it's around unemployment and support for small business, vaccine distribution, a series of other areas that need to be in an interim package, a short-term emergency package to bridge us from now until the next administration," Warner said.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine helped develop the proposal. Other senators involved include Republicans Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah. From the Democratic caucus, along with Manchin and Warner, are New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, along with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
The group of senators is one of several that has been regularly discussing proposals to try to get an emergency relief package through before the end of 2020.
The plan to be unveiled Tuesday also includes a short-term liability moratorium for coronavirus-related litigation while states are given a chance to come up with their own frameworks for handling such lawsuits. The liability protection question has been a priority of Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The proposal represents a compromise between a $519 billion package backed by Senate Republicans, and a $2.4 trillion measure House Democrats passed in October. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been discussing a compromise in the ballpark of about $1.9 trillion, but neither side would budge on the final particulars as talks collapsed prior to the elections.(c)2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC