Report: Lawmakers discuss possible stimulus relief as omicron spreads

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is discussing a new round of stimulus payments for businesses such as restaurants, gyms and performance venues.

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The talks have been led by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, The Washington Post reported.

According to the story, the two came up with an outline of a roughly $68 billion proposal over the past few weeks.

The spending would reportedly be paid for through a combination of new spending and repurposing some unused cash authorized for COVID-19 relief under previous packages.

According to The Washington Post, the talks about another stimulus package do not include individual payments to Americans, such as the $1,400 checks that went out to millions last year.

Cardin and Wicker have not settled on how the money would be distributed, according to the Post, but have been meeting with other lawmakers to try to firm up the package as they build support.

Lawmakers who have been included in the talks include members from both parties, such as Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Mark R. Warner (D-Virginia) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Sen. Cardin confirmed to CNN that a bipartisan group is exploring some form of aid for restaurants and other industries hit by the latest wave in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the contagious omicron variant.

Cardin went on to say that while there is no formal proposal yet, the idea has gained traction.

“Leadership is encouraging us,” Cardin said, according to a CNN reporter on Twitter.

There were no serious discussions on the matter on the House side, a House leadership aide told CNN.

Republican leadership has not commented on any proposal to spend more on COVID-19 relief, but in recent weeks has decried a rise in inflation and argued against the Build Back Better bill that would cost trillions.

“6.8% inflation is the worst in almost 40 years. It is unthinkable that Senate Democrats would try to respond to this inflation report by ramming through another massive socialist spending package in a matter of days,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted last month.

If a bill could be crafted and pass Congress, it would come on top of more than $4.5 trillion that legislators have authorized since the pandemic began in March 2020.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would not answer questions about talks between the White House, Democrats and Republicans about another batch of relief money for businesses.