Full $908 Billion Pandemic Bill Coming Monday, Democrat Says

Source: By Tony Czuczka, Bloomberg • Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2020

Joe Manchin Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will unveil a $908 billion coronavirus pandemic relief bill on Monday, although there’s “no guarantee” Congress will pass it, one of the key negotiators said.

“We were on a call all day yesterday, we’ll get on a call again this afternoon to finish things up,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ll have a bill produced for the American people tomorrow, $908 billion.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers engaged in the talks have said they completed detailed proposals on small business help, vaccine-distribution funding and other key areas. The sticking point is how to shield employers from virus-related lawsuits, a top demand of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A competing, $916 billion relief proposal is also circulating from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Manchin, one of eight negotiators from both parties involved in the drafting, expressed confidence that Congress will pass a relief bill before the holiday break.

“The plan is alive and well and there’s no way, no way that we are going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people,” he said.

Whether that’s enough to pass a bill in both houses is an open question.

“There’s 535 people that have to vote, 535. I can’t guarantee they’re all going to vote for it and pass it,” Manchin said.

He didn’t spell out how the liability question would be addressed in the group’s proposal, while suggesting it might include both liability and aid to states, a Democratic priority.

“We can get something we could all live with, but we are putting a product forward,” he said. “It’s going to go forward with both — with everything hopefully in it. You will see a complete bill tomorrow before the end of the day.”

President Donald Trump hasn’t been closely involved in the current round of talks, but said on Fox News that he’s “pushing it very hard.”

“I want to see checks going for more money than they’re talking about going to people,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” in an interview taped on Saturday. Manchin said mailing stimulus checks to Americans regardless of need in the latest round of relief was “a bad idea.”

Instead, negotiators are going for an extension of $300 a week in expanded jobless benefits for 16 weeks as “more reasonable, practical, and much-needed,” he said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urged both sides of the divided Congress to be prepared to compromise to provide aid to millions of people soon to lose unemployment benefits.

“In the legislative process, nobody ever gets everything they want,” Hoyer said Sunday on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”