“I’m not sure why it’s controversial,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tells Sahil Kapur … and neither am I. A second round of $1200 checks to taxpayers at and below a certain income level was popular in April, and has been popular in all of the discussions for a Phase 4 bill. It has broad support in both parties, but Senate Republicans pulled it out to get to a “skinny” bill in the fall. For some reason, centrists left it out too, despite support from both Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump for another round of direct aid.

While some on Capitol Hill are beginning to believe that a bill will emerge soon, Hawley plans on fighting anything without the stimulus checks:

NBC reports this morning that a Phase 4 bill has never been closer, but it’s still not clear what components will be in the proposal once it emerges. Apparently some sort of liability shield will be in it, although it might just be temporary:

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., called it “a great framework” but acknowledged that some sticking points remain.

“There are issues — in particular, the size of state aid and the liability relief,” he told reporters Thursday. …

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a close McConnell ally, said Thursday that he is negotiating with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on what the liability shield might look like.

“We’re slowly but surely making some progress,” Cornyn said. “I don’t think it’s been a matter of can we reach an agreement. It’s been a lack of political will. Now there seems to be a greater sense that we have to get this done. So I’m encouraged.”

Consider that a concession from both sides on the major sticking points in earlier negotiations. Republicans will give a little on bloc-granted state aid, while Democrats will give a little on liability waivers for businesses trying to stay open. This compromise was obvious in July, and for every day ever since. Centrists tried in August and September to bridge that gap in this manner — remember the “Problem Solvers Caucus“? Good times, good times. 

The current framework for the resolution is the new, unnamed centrist caucus’ plan to spend a little over $900 billion while splitting liability and bloc-grant babies down the middle. That’s precisely what the Problem Solvers Caucus plan did too, only that had the second round of direct stimulus payments in the plan, to which no one objected at the time. That’s why the earlier bill came in a little over $1.4 trillion, nearly exactly the halfway mark between proposals from Pelosi and Mitch McConnell.

Why not just go back to that proposal? Leaving out those stimulus checks would be a political disaster for everyone, especially right before Christmas. It will get portrayed as a Wall Street bailout and a Main Street betrayal. Hawley seems to be the only one in Washington who understands that.