Top congressional leaders are closing in on an agreement on a long-delayed COVID-19 relief package, hoping to seal a deal as early as Wednesday that would extend aid to individuals and businesses and help ship coronavirus vaccines to millions.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a coauthor of a $908 billion bipartisan package, said leadership negotiators are closing in on an agreement that would extend direct payments of $500-$600 to most Americans but would deny Democratic negotiators long-sought aid to state and local governments.
“We made major headway toward hammering out a bipartisan relief package,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The negotiators are closing in on an agreement around $900 billion, which would include a new round of stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits, and other avenues for delivering aid to states, localities, territories and tribes, according to two people familiar with the talks and authorized to characterize them. Their statement said that a GOP-sought provision shielding businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits would be dropped.
In other political headlines, President-elect Joe Biden nominated his former rival Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation on Tuesday and intends to choose former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as his energy secretary.
Biden also plans to tap Gina McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency chief, for the powerful new position of domestic climate chief to run his ambitious climate plans across the federal government.
All three will be central to Biden’s plan to remake the country’s automobiles and transportation systems to quickly cut climate-damaging petroleum emissions.
Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post. At 38, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would also add a youthful dynamic to an incoming administration that is so far dominated in large part by leaders with decades of Washington experience.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll be discussing the latest in politics, including the relief bill negotiations, the electoral college vote and the latest on Biden’s cabinet picks.
With files from the Associated Press