Senate approves one-week funding bill to avoid government shutdown

The Senate voted unanimously on Friday to approve a one-week spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown during COVID-19 relief talks.

The one-week funding extends until Dec. 18 a deadline to pass coronavirus pandemic relief as infections, deaths and business closures increase.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday and President Trump is expected to sign it before a midnight deadline.

Before passage, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said legislators should not return home without approving more stimulus checks.

“I can figure out who exactly is opposed to it,” said Hawley, who noted President Trump and all major party leaders in Congress had endorsed the idea in principle.

Sanders said, “If I have anything to say about it, and I guess I do, we’re not going to go home for the Christmas holidays unless we make sure that we provide for the millions of families in this country who are suffering.”

An initial round of $1,200 checks was approved in March, but direct payments are not included in a bipartisan proposal backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) support a new round of $600 stimulus checks, and the White House reportedly floated having the checks replace a proposed $300 weekly unemployment insurance supplement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Getty Images

The direct checks likely would be means tested, as they were in March, with individuals who earn higher wages getting less money and people earning more than $95,000 getting nothing.

An estimated 12 million people face loss of unemployment benefits Dec. 26 as state officials again order businesses to close with rising infection and hospitalization rates.

Democratic leaders last week endorsed a $908 billion bipartisan proposal, dropping months-long insistence on a deal costing between $2.4 trillion and $3.4 trillion, including up to $1 trillion for state and local governments, which Republicans largely oppose.

The $908 billion proposal would partially revive at $300 per week a federal unemployment supplement, down from $600 a week before it expired, and would add $288 billion in new small-business Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
EPA

The bipartisan plan also calls for $45 billion for airlines and struggling mass-transit systems, $160 billion for state and local governments and $16 billion for COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution. It has $82 billion for schools, $10 billion for the US Postal Service and $5 billion for opioid addiction treatment.

Although many elements are broadly supported, the proposal does not contain another round of stimulus checks or McConnell’s request for liability protections for businesses, which Democrats say might allow businesses to endanger people’s health without consequence.

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