US stimulus talks
The US House of Representatives will vote on a one-week stopgap funding bill Wednesday to prevent the federal government from having to shut down.
The measure aims to extend current US government funding levels by December 18, preventing the depletion of available funds Friday midnight so that federal agencies and programs can work.
The act will give Congress seven more days to enact a larger, $1.4 trillion “omnibus” spending measure, which they hope to add to a long-awaited Covid19 aid package. Of course, if both parties in the US Congress can reach an agreement in the meantime.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered to pass a targeted aid package that includes vaccine distribution and money for small businesses, sans the most controversial items - liability protections for businesses desired by Republicans and further assistance to state and local governments demanded by Democrats.
But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders in his party rejected the offer, saying that failing to pay state and local governments would put at risk the jobs of police, firemen, and other public officials at the forefront of the war in the pandemic.
The Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Tuesday that he has offered the House Speaker and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi a $916-billion aid proposal that includes money for both state and local governments and liability protections for businesses.
Mnuchin’s proposal follows last week’s $908-billion senate bipartisan offer, backed by both moderate and conservative Republicans, and to some degree, as well as Pelosi and President-Elect Biden. McConnell proposes $500 billion.
Johnson-Leyen Brexit date
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the European Union on Wednesday that it must set aside demands that he said are unacceptable if a Brexit trade deal is to be concluded to avoid a turbulent separation in three weeks.
Johnson was flying to Brussels Wednesday to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at dinner, as the fear that the five-year Brexit crisis would end in a chaotic no-deal finale remained in place and even strengthened.
Both sides describe the meeting as a chance to open a stalemate in the stalled trade talks, but when London finally left the EU’s orbit on December 31st, they acknowledged the danger that a trade agreement might not be reached.
Johnson said Brussels wants the UK to comply with new EU laws in the future or to be automatically punished and insists that it relinquish its sovereign control over British fisheries.
Johnson said that if the EU cancels its demands, a “good deal” could be made, but his country would be successful whether it had a trade deal or not. A British government source pointed out, similar to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, that a deal might not be possible.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is preparing to further expand its massive stimulus program at its monetary policy meeting on Thursday as the continent’s countries are dealing with the second wave of coronavirus epidemic and related socio-economic lockdowns.
At the meeting in October, the central bank of the Eurozone promised to “readjust its instruments” at the December meeting to respond to the emerging situation.
Soon after, new virus lockdowns in the region significantly disrupted the economic outlook, at least in the short term, with increasing daily infection rates. Until now, the ECB has avoided showing too much optimism about the spread of vaccine candidates.
No interest rate changes are expected from the meeting.