Washington – Congress enters a decisive week to direct a new economic stimulus project to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus, at a time when it will have to approve, no later than Friday, a budget measure to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner (Virginia) indicated yesterday that the Senate bipartisan group of which he is a member will present today, Monday, an economic stimulus bill based on the proposals they unveiled last week and that have raised hopes that generate a consensus agreement.
The Senate bipartisan group’s plan would cost $ 908 billion, nearly a midpoint between proposals made by Democratic and Republican leaders in October.RELATED
Warner said on CNN that the project is “a four-month bridge to the administration” of Joe Biden, who as president-elect has endorsed the legislation and stressed that it would be “just the beginning” as more comprehensive initiatives will be needed early in the year. 2021.
“We don’t have a choice,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) in an interview on NBC, stressing that there is clearly consensus that new legislation is required.
Both the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (California), and the leader of the Democratic minority of the Senate, Charles Schumer (New York), have indicated that the bipartisan bill will be the framework for negotiations and that Congress should not recess until legislation is passed.
Pelosi and Schumer had defended, until last week, the bill approved in October in the lower house that would allocate $ 2.2 billion (“trillions” in English) to soften the economic damage and address the health complications caused by the coronavirus, which has caused the death of nearly 282,000 people in the US
More than 2,000 people died daily last week in the United States from COVID-19, while new cases exceed 200,000 daily and in some localities health systems fear reaching their maximum level of hospitalization.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, has warned that the health system will face the most difficult moment in its history during the months of December, January and February.
The most recent update of the University of Washington model, which has been used by the White House, estimates that as of April 1, 538,893 people may have died in the United States from COVID-19.
The “speaker” Pelosi said that given the imminent approval in the United States of vaccines against the coronavirus that need to be distributed quickly and the election of Biden, the scenario has changed greatly and a less comprehensive project can be chosen.
The bipartisan plan that can become a bill today drives a new round of federal unemployment assistance, which would cost $ 188 billion and offer an additional $ 300 a week to state aid for 18 weeks. It also proposes another period of small business payroll protection (PPP) loans, at a cost of $ 288 billion.
The plan promotes allocating $ 160,000 million to fiscally assist state and local governments, $ 82,000 million for education systems, $ 45,000 million for transportation, $ 26,000 million in nutritional assistance and $ 16,000 million for health programs, including the distribution of the vaccine and tests of virus diagnosis.
Liberal sectors, such as independent senator Bernie Sanders (Vemont) and Puerto Rican Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have demanded that the measure include funds to grant another federal check of at least $ 1,200 to the majority of citizens.
Sanders and Ocasio Cortez also demand that the language that would grant temporary immunity to companies reopening amid the pandemic be excluded. Senator Sanders said that if those corrections are not made in the bipartisan bill, he will vote against it.
Ocasio Cortez, for her part, has indicated that at a time when the spread of the virus reaches extraordinary levels, assistance is required to allow citizens to stay at home.
Meanwhile, Biden has not ruled out that a new federal check is now being promoted. “I am not the only one who says that this situation is urgent; if we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak, “said the president-elect.
Senator Warner said the legislation, rather than granting indefinite federal immunity to businesses, wants to offer a few months for states to decide whether to offer that type of business protection in their states.
Neither the White House nor Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) has officially endorsed the bipartisan group’s plan.
But, McConnell – whose caucus has been reluctant to a very comprehensive project – insisted that the measure be presented today, Monday, if it is to be included in a possible budget omnibus that includes the rest of the allocations for this federal fiscal year 2021 and the Defense spending authorization project.
Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), who is part of the bipartisan group of senators, said on Fox that President Donald Trump “has indicated that he would sign a bill that assigns $ 908,000 million.” “There is only one $ 908 billion legislative package and it is ours,” added Cassidy.
It is not certain, however, that a budget agreement or an economic stimulus project can be achieved this week, so it is not ruled out to approve another resolution that extends until December 18 the measure that allows maintaining the same level of expenses of the past federal fiscal year, which ended in September.