GOP Sen. Daines says a $900 billion Covid relief deal could be announced Wednesday

A Republican senator said congressional leaders could announce a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal as soon as Wednesday morning.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told CNBC the aid agreement would not include liability protections for businesses or aid to state and local government. Disagreements over those two issues have blocked lawmakers from crafting a year-end rescue package.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’re going to see this $900 billion package released today, and this will likely get passed before we go home this weekend,” the senator told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., arrives for the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in Hart Building on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Congress has rushed to find consensus on legislation to fund the government and rescue a health-care system and economy buckling under the pandemic. If lawmakers fail to act, the government will shut down on Saturday, 12 million people will lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas and millions more could face the threat of eviction.

Daines’ comments follow Tuesday night negotiations among the top four congressional leaders in the Capitol. Republicans and Democrats had failed for months to make progress toward a bill that could get through a divided Congress. But they appeared to move close to an agreement during their talks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said they hoped to have an agreement “soon.”

NBC News confirmed Politico’s initial report that congressional leaders have moved close to agreement on a $900 billion rescue package. The measure will contain direct payments to individuals which could come out to about $600 per person, according to NBC.

Daines also said it would include about $300 billion for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans, money for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing and relief for hospitals. Parts of the bill appear to reflect a bipartisan plan released by rank-and-file lawmakers this week. However, that proposal did not include any direct payments.

Congressional progressives have urged party leaders to include stimulus checks in any legislation. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have also threatened to delay passage of a bill that does not include a direct payment.

At this stage, the Senate would likely need unanimous support to pass a bill quickly enough to meet the Friday deadline.

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