Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Alex Wong/Getty Images; Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
The House on Wednesday voted by a large margin to extend the deadline for a government spending bill — and with it a COVID-19 stimulus package — by one week.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who’s part of the group behind the bipartisan $908 billion stimulus plan, told The New York Times that it would be “working around the clock” to solve the remaining issues.
The White House, backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has announced a competing $916 billion plan that differs significantly on key issues such as unemployment benefits.
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The House on Wednesday voted 343-67 to approve a weeklong extension of government-funding negotiations as lawmakers continued to tussle over key details of a COVID-19 stimulus package.
The Senate is expected to approve the deadline extension on Thursday – averting a government shutdown on Friday.
As the clock ticks, lawmakers are working to resolve differences in the overall spending bill and are making what has become a highly contentious effort to agree on the scale and details of a COVID-19 relief package.
There are now two COVID-19 stimulus proposals with mainstream support:
A $908 billion proposal crafted by a bipartisan group that includes $180 billion in unemployment insurance; support for state and local governments, schools, and healthcare providers; and funding for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. It has the backing of several GOP figures and leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
A $916 billion proposal from the White House that includes $600 stimulus checks, money for state and local governments, “robust” corporate liability protections, and $40 billion in unemployment-insurance spending. It has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Mnuchin announced the White House proposal just over a week after the bipartisan group unveiled its plan, and just as the bipartisan plan was gaining momentum on both sides of the aisle.
Pelosi and Schumer dismissed the White House proposal as undermining bipartisan progress. “The President’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are under way,” they said in a joint statement.
But there are significant disagreements to be resolved in the bipartisan proposal.
Liability protections for businesses – favored by the GOP – and the Democratic Party’s wish for more aid for state and governments remain the two main sticking points.
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Negotiators have indicated that an agreement in time is still possible.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat behind the bipartisan negotiations, told The New York Times that the group would “be working around the clock until we solve the liability and worker protection issue.”
“That’s really the last remaining hurdle,” he said. “We have no choice but to get it done.”
Gottheimer also told CBS News, “We are literally on the five-yard line now.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican also involved in the bipartisan talks, told The Times, “We are still working together on this,” adding that “the possibilities are there to resolve this and to resolve this in a way that makes sense and gains support.”
“One way or another, we’ll get it done,” Pelosi said on Wednesday, according to The Times.
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