While it doesn't influence our opinions of products, we may receive compensation from partners whose offers appear here. We're on your side, always. See our full advertiser disclosure here.
For a brief moment, it appeared that there was real progress toward passing more coronavirus relief. Americans have waited months for help from Washington, D.C., and a bipartisan group of lawmakers put together a $908 billion proposal to provide it. Some key figures on the left embraced it, and its low price tag (relative to past bills), was designed to encourage reluctant Republicans to sign on.
Unfortunately, hopes that Americans would see more money in their bank accounts quickly fizzled. It appeared the bill would be derailed by some of the same issues that have prevented the passage of another bill since March.
However, the lawmakers who came up with the compromise plan are making another strategic move in hopes of increasing its chances of passage: They've split their proposal into two bills. Here's why, along with some details on what their two relief plans could look like.
Lawmakers propose two-part stimulus plan in hopes of finding consensus
The bipartisan group, made up of centrist Republican and Democratic senators, indicated on Monday that their $908 billion proposal would be split into two plans, with the goal of quickly passing one relief bill that is not controversial.
The first of the two bills would carry a $748 billion price tag, and include only popular provisions that lawmakers from the right and the left should -- theoretically -- be willing to sign onto. This bill would include expanded unemployment benefits; more money for small businesses through a refresh of the Paycheck Protection Program; funding for schools; and money to help distribute the newly approved coronavirus vaccine.
The second bill would include the two provisions that have caused substantial conflict and derailed past efforts at passing stimulus relief. These provisions include state and local aid -- a Democratic priority -- and liability protections for businesses, a top Republican priority opposed by every Democrat except West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Many Republicans are adamantly opposed to providing financial support for state and local governments. While Democrats claim the money is necessary to help states hit hard by falling revenue and exorbitant coronavirus costs, Republicans are concerned that offering billions to states would be a "blue state" bailout helping Democrat-led states that tend to spend more. While Republicans believe a liability shield is necessary to protect against frivolous lawsuits, Democrats are concerned these provisions could affect public health and safety.
These conflicting positions have long been a sticking point, and could have derailed the initial $908 billion proposal. Separating out these divisive aspects of the bill could increase the chances of a compromise, as could pairing the two controversial provisions in a separate bill.
Unfortunately, there are other issues that could still prevent the quick deal the bipartisan lawmakers seek. One of the biggest problems is that Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have said they aren't on board with legislation lacking another coronavirus stimulus check. But adding in stimulus payments could push the price tag above the threshold most Republicans have indicated is a hard limit.
Still, this creative two-part approach could ultimately be the way forward, even if it needs tweaking. With Americans in desperate need of relief as unemployment benefits expire, Congress needs to act soon -- and focusing a bill on areas of agreement could be just the ticket to make that happen.