Hands are out as Congress is set to begin negotiating a new round of pandemic stimulus.

Source: By New York Times • Posted: Monday, July 20, 2020

Airlines, hotels and restaurants. Military contractors and banks. Even Broadway actors. These are just a few of the special interests already maneuvering to get a piece of the next coronavirus relief package about to be taken up by Congress, which is back in session this week.

The House has signaled that it wants $3 trillion in aid, the Senate appears to want something in the range of $1 trillion, and the White House is now involved in negotiations. The main components on the table are additional payments to individuals, money for state and local governments, extended unemployment insurance and liability protections for companies and other institutions that are trying to reopen.

But the package is also likely to be the last opportunity before the election in November for a wide range of industries and interests to push for narrower provisions that would benefit them, setting off intensive lobbying.

The process is still at an early stage, but with the pandemic raging across the country and the economy showing few signs of the rapid rebound President Trump had predicted, Congress and the administration are under pressure to come together on a substantial stimulus bill. And lobbyists are optimistic about getting at least some of the breaks they are seeking.

“With the extraordinarily unsuccessful disease management, the economy is a grave risk again,” said Bruce P. Mehlman, a Republican lobbyist whose firm represents dozens of corporate clients, including 3M and United Airlines. “It makes it more likely the White House will tell Republicans to cut a big-dollar deal.”

The $3 trillion stimulus package passed by the Democratic-controlled House in May would send aid to state and local governments and provide another round of direct $1,200 payments to taxpayers.

But it lacks many of the special provisions that various interest groups are pushing for, leaving them to focus now on the Senate and any bipartisan negotiations between the two chambers and the White House.

Republicans hope to unveil a tailored package in the coming days, likely to be about $1 trillion, that would include a series of liability protections for businesses, hospitals and schools fearful of getting sued by customers and employees who contract the virus. The conference remains divided over how to address extended unemployment benefits, which amount to an additional $600 per week, with some Republicans pushing to lower the amount instead of outright eliminating the benefit altogether.