With time running out, lawmakers on Sunday closed in on a proposed COVID-19 relief bill that would provide roughly $300 in extra federal weekly unemployment benefits but not another round of $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, leaving that issue for President-elect Joe Biden to wrestle over with a new Congress next year, the AP reports. The $908 billion aid package to be released Monday would be attached to a larger year-end spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this coming weekend. The cash payments were popular when they were first distributed after the pandemic hit, and Biden on Friday had expressed hope that a second wave might come after weekend negotiations. But senators involved in the talks said the checks won't be included as part of the compromise.
Yet Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others said that could cause them to oppose the measure. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois indicated that excluding the checks while assuring small-business aid and renters' assistance was the only way to reach agreement with Republicans who are putting firm limits on the bill’s final price tag. "The $1,200 check, it cost we believe nationally $300 billion to give you an idea," he said. "The Democrats have always wanted a larger number, but we were told we couldn't get anything through the Republicans, except this $900 billion level." The plan being worked on by GOP and Democratic senators is less than half of the Democrats' push of $2.2 trillion and nearly double the $500 billion package proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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