The lawmakers are widely expected to present language for two separate bills: One, at $748 billion, would include all provisions except for state and local government funding and liability protections for businesses. The second bill would include the two deeply controversial items, with $160 billion in funding for state and local aid and a temporary liability shield.
Those two issues have plagued negotiations for months: Republicans maintain that a liability shield for businesses is needed, but the issue is a "poison pill" for Democrats. At the same time, Democrats want to include billions in new funding for state and local governments, which their GOP colleagues have lambasted a "blue-state bailout."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week proposed dropping the items altogether and concentrating the aid on areas where most lawmakers can agree – such as funding for vaccine distribution, relief for small businesses and boosted federal unemployment benefits, as well as other matters.
"State and local money is tied to liability protection," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said last Monday. "So there's either going to be none for both of those or both of those that are going to be provided for. My hope is that we'll do both."
The framework released by the group shows the aid package allocates about $300 billion in funding for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, $240 billion in aid for state and local governments, $180 billion to extend boosted unemployment benefits at $300 per week through March and includes liability protections for businesses that remain open during the pandemic.
It would also funnel $16 billion into vaccine distribution, testing, and contact tracing, put $82 billion into education, and give $45 billion for transportation.
The bill text has not been finalized yet.
The White House has put forward its own $916 billion proposal that includes a $600 stimulus check – half the payment included in the March CARES Act – but no extra federal jobless aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who endorsed the $908 billion compromise, called it "progress" that McConnell agreed to back the $916 billion offer, but maintained that the ongoing bipartisan negotiations are the best path to a deal.
“The president’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable," they said in a joint statement.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone Sunday for about 30 minutes to discuss the latest developments on a must-pass government funding bill and COVID relief talks, a spokesperson for Pelosi, Drew Hammill, tweeted.
"The Speaker believes, at a time when the virus is surging, that the need for state and local funding is even more important, especially given the states’ responsibility for distributing and administering the vaccine," he wrote.
The pair agreed to speak again on Monday.
Still, one of the negotiators, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Sunday there's "no guarantee" that Congress will pass the bipartisan measure.
“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 during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
After months of deadlock, lawmakers are rushing to try and strike a deal before the end of the year, when social safety nets put in place earlier this year with the passage of the CARES Act are set to expire. At least 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, while eviction moratoriums for renters and protections for student borrowers are set to lapse.
Congress passed a temporary funding measure to keep the federal government running until Dec. 18, giving lawmakers an extra week to strike a deal on an omnibus spending bill that's expected to include COVID-19 relief.