WASHINGTON — A bipartisan quartet of congressional leaders is pushing hard for a long-delayed COVID-19 aid package.
A deal could come as early as Wednesday on legislation that would extend help to individuals and businesses and ship coronavirus vaccines to millions.
Negotiations on COVID-19 relief have intensified after months of futility.
The top Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress met twice Tuesday in hopes of finally cementing an agreement that would revive subsidies for businesses hit hard by the pandemic, help distribute new coronavirus vaccines, fund schools and renew soon-to-expire jobless benefits.
Then Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and Congressional leaders will not leave Washington for the holiday until a COVID-19 relief bill is passed.
“The Democratic Leader and I worked into the evening alongside the Speaker of the House and the House Republican Leader," McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities."
The Senate majority leader said money is needed not only for the American people suffering from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, but to help re-up the Payment Protection Program and for vaccine distribution.
“Congressional leaders on both sides are going to keep working until we get it done,” McConnell said.
The Washington Post and Politico report the package would amount to nearly $900 billion in relief and may include a new round of stimulus checks, though the dollar amount for the possible direct payments isn’t yet known.
The package would reportedly exclude aid for state and local governments, as well as leave out liability protections. Both were contentious items between Democrats and Republicans.
The negotiators will be back at it early Wednesday as a government funding deadline looms Friday at midnight.