An emerging $900 billion COVID-19 aid package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers has all but collapsed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican senators won't support $160 billion in state and local funds as part of a potential trade-off in the deal. McConnell's staff conveyed to top negotiators Thursday that the GOP leader sees no path to an agreement on a key aspect of the lawmakers' existing proposal—a slimmed-down version of the liability shield he is seeking for companies and organizations facing potential COVID-19 lawsuits—in exchange for the state and local funds that Democrats want, the AP reports. The GOP leader criticized "controversial state bailouts" during a speech in the Senate. He insisted on a more targeted aid package.
The hardened stance from McConnell creates a new stalemate over the $900-billion-plus package, despite days of toiling by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to strike a compromise. Other legislative pile-ups now threaten Friday's related business—a must-pass government funding bill. If it doesn't clear Congress, that would trigger a federal government shutdown on Saturday. The breakdown over the COVID aid package, after days of behind-the-scenes talks by a group of lawmakers fed up with inaction, comes as President Trump has taken the talks in another direction—insisting on a fresh round of $600 stimulus checks for Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchinm Trump's top negotiator on COVID-19 financial aid, reported headway Thursday before the package from the bipartisan senators' group fell apart.
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