$908 billion: Centrists propose bipartisan breakthrough for coronavirus relief


A core group of centrist Republicans and Democrats announced agreement on a $908 billion coronavirus relief plan Tuesday, aiming to cut through partisan boundaries that have put an eight-month hold on any new major pandemic legislation.

The lawmakers involved in Tuesday’s proposal, which is a framework but not a bill, came from both the House and Senate. Their announcement signals a growing sense on Capitol Hill that something must be done this month.

“It’s inexcusable for us to leave town and not have an agreement,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat. “We know what’s necessary right now.”

The plan would extend programs slated to expire at the end of this month for three months into the new year.

It envisions more than a quarter-trillion dollars going to the Paycheck Protection Program that helps businesses keep people on payroll, and a new round of federal unemployment assistance to those who are laid off.

It includes some money for states and municipalities, which had been a major demand of Democrats. And it includes short-term liability protections for businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits, which Republicans had insisted on.

“Republicans and Democrats — neither of us got everything we wanted. Both of us got much of what we wanted,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican. “This is a victory for the American people, this is a victory for common sense.”

The bill has the support of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, a group of 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats, giving it a critical imprimatur.

Whether it can break the gridlock that’s reigned for eight months remains to be seen.

Senate Republicans’ current ante is a half-trillion-dollar bill. House Democrats have approved two plans, ranging from a $2.2 trillion proposal to a $3 trillion bill.

Leaders from both sides have accused each other of not being willing to negotiate.

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