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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks alongside a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators has released the full legislative text for a two-part stimulus plan: a $748 billion package focusing on areas of agreement and a separate $160 billion bill that includes the most controversial provisions — additional funding for state and local government and liability protections.

Why it matters: While many lawmakers see this bill as the most realistic and concrete compromise on coronavirus relief that we've seen in months, House and Senate leadership currently view it as a marker for broader negotiations — not the final vehicle for aid.

The bottom line: Congress has until the end of the week to strike a deal on a stimulus bill that can be tied to longer-term spending legislation, so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) need to get moving.

Details: The $748 billion version billion bill includes all of the major priorities that both parties want to see in a relief package — enhanced unemployment benefits, an extension of the small business Paycheck Protection Program, more money for education and increased funding for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing.

  • But — similar to McConnell's proposal — the bill on its own does not include the areas where the parties are farthest apart in an effort to ensure that at least some of the package can pass.
  • Instead, Congress has the option to vote for those issues — Democrats' demand for additional aid for state and local government and Republicans' push for (temporary) liability protections — in the separate, $160 billion bill.
  • Critics of this approach say the slimmed down version defeats the purpose of negotiations, given it's much harder to pass contested legislation when it's not tied to the un-controversial provisions.

What neither proposal includes: Stimulus checks — something Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are demanding be included in a final package.

What they're saying: "There's been a lot of gangs who didn't get to the final product, but we did. Let's get it across the finish line," Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), a leading figure in the group said Monday.

  • "It would be Scrooge-like to leave folks to lose their unemployment or their apartment."
  • "We're the only game in town," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said. "This is about need and not greed."

Read the $748 billion bill

Read the $160 billion bill

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.

Jan 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Vaccinations, relief timing dominate Sweet 16 call

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks during a news conference in December with a group of bipartisan lawmakers. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.