Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that both sides of the aisle put aside their differences until next year surrounding coronavirus stimulus.
The Kentucky Republican “traded public barbs” on Tuesday, December 8, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding how to break the months-long stalemate over the overall cost of the next relief package, according to NPR. Democrats have been seeking substantial aid for state and local governments, while Republicans have been pushing for employer liability shields, the Chicago Tribune reported in October.
“It remains my view that we ought to pass what we can agree on. … What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local and pass those things that we can agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year,” McConnell said at Tuesday’s press conference.
“We can’t leave without doing a COVID bill — the country needs it,” he said.
NPR described the comments as a “significant departure” from the Senate majority leader’s previous calls for liability limits. McConnell has also been a vocal advocate for targeted assistance for smaller businesses and other measures, according to CNBC.
Schumer, nonetheless, shut down McConnell’s suggestion and accused the senator of interfering with “bipartisan negotiations,” NPR said.
“The state and local funding provisions have broad bipartisan support from the National Governors Association and within the Senate — many Republicans support state and local funding,” Schumer said in his own December 8 press conference, “unlike the extreme corporate liability proposal leader McConnell made, which has no Democratic support.”
Here’s what you need to know:
McConnell & Pelosi Have Said They Hope to Include Coronavirus Relief in a Year-End Spending Bill
According to NPR, both McConnell and Pelosi have pushed for incorporating coronavirus relief in a year-end spending bill.
The deadline for that legislation is Friday, December 11, according to the outlet, “but lawmakers released short-term legislation Tuesday that would give them until December 18 to reach a deal.”
The current negotiations have been focused on a $908 billion bipartisan plan that includes more money for small businesses, additional federal unemployment benefits and money for testing, vaccine distribution and schools. Republican leaders have insisted that any coronavirus bill be limited in scope, but Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told reporters this week he is urging President Trump to veto any bill that doesn’t include checks for individual Americans.
The White House Recently Proposed a $916 Billion Package
The White House on Tuesday, December 8, offered a $916 billion proposal to Democrats in an attempt to compromise on “some” state and local government funding, as well as liability protections for businesses, according to The New York Times.
The $300 weekly enhanced federal unemployment benefit is not included in the proposal, “though it would extend other federal unemployment programs set to expire in the coming weeks,” the outlet continued.
The plan would also incorporate a round of $600 direct payments to taxpayers, NYT said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin published a statement on Twitter on December 8 expressing that he looks forward “to achieving bipartisan agreement so we can provide this critical economic relief to American workers, families and businesses.”
The House Approved a 1-Week Funding Extension as Stimulus Talks Continue
As stimulus talks continue, congressional leaders on Wednesday, December 9, moved to “buy more time to strike an elusive deal on an economic relief measure to address the ruin wrought by the pandemic, but with time running short, it was unclear whether a compromise would pass,” according to The New York Times.
The House approved a one-week stopgap spending bill that pushed the December 11 deadline to December 18, the outlet reported. The decision avoided the “immediate threat” of a shutdown as negotiators continue to work toward finding a resolution for the next stimulus package, The Times said.
“The Senate was expected to approve the extension, which passed the House by a vote of 343 to 67,” according to The New York Times. “But an agreement on providing billions of dollars in relief to families, businesses and hospitals remained out of reach.”
“We obviously want to get people back to work,” Mnuchin said during a briefing, the newspaper reported. “By sending out checks, we’re putting money into the economy for people.”