- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2020

President Trump said he wants to see another round of stimulus checks in the next coronavirus deal that lawmakers are rushing to complete before their Christmas break.

He urged Democrats to agree to the deal.

“They should do it right now,” he said in an interview aired Sunday on Fox News. “I want to see checks going for more money than they’re talking about going to people.”

Lawmakers working on a bipartisan $908 billion relief package plan to release their bill Monday, but it’s not expected to include stimulus checks because of opposition from some Senate Republicans.

A $916 billion proposal from the Trump administration included a round of $600 direct payments but scrapped a $300 boost in weekly unemployment checks, which Democrats called a benefit cut and thus opposed.

However, the direct payments spurred an unlikely coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont, and rising conservative star Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, teamed up last week to try to force a vote to provide $1,200 to individuals making up to $75,000, plus a $500-per-child benefit.

They ultimately waived their leverage and allowed for a quick passage of a vital stop-gap spending measure, but warned they might not be so lenient this coming week if they don’t get a vote on the direct payments.

“I am not one of the members of the Senate who shuts down, does this or does that and keeps you here for the weekend. I don’t do that. But this I want to say right now, I am prepared to withdraw my objection at this moment, but I will not be prepared to withdraw an objection next week,” Mr. Sanders said on the Senate floor.

“Congress must not go home for Christmas until we vote on direct relief for working families,” Mr. Hawley tweeted Sunday.

Congress needs to pass a comprehensive government funding bill by Dec. 18, or at least another stop-gap measure, to avert a government shutdown before the holidays. Party leadership on both sides of the aisle are hoping to attach coronavirus relief to that package — if negotiators can finalize a deal in time.

The biggest sticking point for their deal — as with the other attempts at deals since the summer — is a tradeoff between Democrats’ push for state and local government funding and Republicans’ request for liability protections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Stephen T. Mnuchin — who spearheaded previous negotiations — discussed a potential coronavirus relief deal Sunday evening for about 30 minutes, though are still far apart on those two points. They plan to speak again Monday.

“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,” Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, wrote on Twitter. “The Speaker reiterated her view that a compromise on the liability issue should be found that does not jeopardize workers’ safety.”

Some Senate Republicans suggested dropping both issues and passing a deal with only the most widely agreed upon programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program’s loans to small businesses, school funds and vaccine distribution aid.

Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat and a lead architect of the compromise deal, dismissed that as “the easy way out.”He said the bipartisan package plans to have both elements included — though, it’s not clear whether party leaders will accept it.

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said he’d accept a deal that doesn’t have those key funds if it gets “essential” aid out the door.

“We need to get the essential done,” Mr. Hoyer said on CNN’s “Inside Politics” program. “We’ll have time to get stuff done that we didn’t include because we couldn’t get political agreement, we’ll have time to do that.

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