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House acts to avert shutdown, buy more time for virus aid talks

Lawmakers have acted to avert a federal authorities shutdown and in addition get extra time for negotiations on cash to assist the economic system in the course of the pandemic.

WASHINGTON — Nonetheless spinning their wheels on COVID-19 aid, lawmakers grabbed a one-week authorities funding extension on Wednesday that buys time for extra talks — although there may be appreciable disagreement over who is meant to be taking the lead from there.

Amid the uncertainty, the Home simply handed a one-week government-wide funding invoice that units a brand new Dec. 18 deadline for Congress to wrap up each the COVID-19 aid measure and a $1.four trillion catchall spending invoice that can be overdue. The 343-67 vote despatched the one-week invoice to the Senate, the place it is anticipated to simply go earlier than a deadline of midnight Friday to avert a partial authorities shutdown.

The measure would give lawmakers extra time to kind via the new mess they’ve created for themselves after months of futile negotiations and posturing and up to date rounds of flip-flopping.

Prime GOP leaders mentioned the correct individuals to deal with endgame negotiations are the highest 4 leaders of Congress and the Trump administration, targeted on a proposal by Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell to remove a Democratic demand for a $160 billion or so assist bundle for state and native governments.

Prime Democrats. in the meantime, are inserting their bets on a bipartisan group of senators who’re attempting to iron out a $908 billion bundle. The bipartisan group is getting no encouragement from McConnell, however members are claiming progress on maybe probably the most contentious merchandise, a requirement by the Kentucky Republican to award companies and different organizations protections in opposition to COVID-related lawsuits.

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“We’re attempting to get a bipartisan compromise alongside the strains of the Gang of Eight framework,” mentioned Senate Minority Chief Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “We’d like Chief McConnell to cease sabotaging the talks and work with this gang of eight, which is probably the most hopeful and the one bipartisan group collectively.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., nevertheless, mentioned the one strategy to resolve the negotiations is for McConnell, Pelosi and the White Home to take cost.

“The bipartisan group supplied basis sort of a spot to start out from. And hopefully, the negotiations are actual negotiations on what can finally go the Home, the Senate, and get signed,” Thune mentioned. “We have to get beneath method.”

The Trump administration is again in the midst of the negotiations, providing a $916 billion bundle on Tuesday that will ship a $600 direct cost to most People however remove a $300-per-week employment profit favored by the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators.

The provide arrived Tuesday got here with the endorsement of the highest Home Republican and obvious backing from McConnell, who had beforehand favored a $519 billion GOP plan that has already failed twice. However Democrats instantly blasted the plan over the administration’s refusal to again the partial restoration, to $300 per week, of bonus pandemic jobless advantages that lapsed in August.

President-elect Joe Biden is urgent for as a lot pandemic aid as potential, although he isn’t straight concerned within the talks. McConnell says Congress won’t adjourn with out offering the long-overdue COVID-19 aid. The stress to ship is intense — all sides say failure isn’t an possibility.

The bipartisan negotiating group — led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, amongst others — is in search of to rally lawmakers behind a $908 billion framework that features a $300-per-week pandemic jobless profit and $160 billion for states and native governments. It’s extra beneficiant than a plan assembled by McConnell however far smaller than a want checklist assembled by Home Democrats.

Particulars leaked Wednesday on much less controversial components of their plan, together with a four-month extension of jobless advantages set to run out on the finish of the month, $300 billion for “paycheck safety” subsidies for struggling companies, funding for vaccines and testing, and a number of smaller objects like assist to transit techniques, the Postal Service and well being care suppliers.

Negotiations proceed on a hotly contested legal responsibility protect from COVID-related lawsuits introduced in opposition to companies, universities and others which have reopened in the course of the pandemic. The legal responsibility subject is considered a key to an eventual settlement that will pair the enterprise aid with a $160 billion state and native assist bundle sought by Democrats.

“Proper now we’re concentrating on struggling households, failing companies, well being care employees and we don’t have a stimulus examine to each single individual, no matter want,” mentioned Collins.

However there’s clear momentum for one more spherical of funds going out to taxpayers regardless of reservations amongst rank-and-file Republicans involved about corralling prices.

A possible COVID settlement would catch a experience on a separate $1.four trillion government-wide spending invoice that has its personal set of issues, together with fights over protections for the sage grouse, the Census, and accounting maneuvers being employed by lawmakers to squeeze $12 billion extra into the laws.

“We’re nonetheless in search of a method ahead,” McConnell mentioned Wednesday morning.

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