Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing for the latest $908 billion bipartisan bill as the blueprint for “immediate” coronavirus relief, marking a stark shift in stance from their previous negotiations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement on December 2 saying that they supported the bill’s framework “as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.” The bill was recently proposed by a moderate group of senators, according to The New York Times.
Pelosi and Schumer also expressed that they made a private offer to Republicans on Monday, December 1.
“While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations,” the Democrats wrote in their joint statement.
“Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement.”
The joint statement showed signs of movement in negotiations after a months-long stalemate over the overall cost of the next bill. Democrats have been seeking substantial funding for state and local governments, while Republicans have been pushing for employer liability shields, according to a late-October story in the Chicago Tribune.
With top congressional Democrats now behind the bipartisan bill, the pressure is on for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill to the floor, The New York Times reported.
“In light of the urgency of meeting the needs of the American people and the hope that the vaccine presents,” Pelosi and Schumer concluded, “it’s time for Leader McConnell to sit down with Democrats to finally begin a true, bipartisan effort to meet the needs of the country.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Bipartisan Plan Does Not Include Another Round of Stimulus Checks
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah are responsible for the bill, along with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, CNN reported. Angus King, an independent from Maine, was also involved in the negotiations, the outlet said.
“I don’t have any prediction how the White House would react,” Romney said according to NBC News. “Covid has created a crisis. And in the crisis the people expect Congress to act.”
According to The New York Times, the bipartisan bill does not include another round of direct stimulus checks and “is significantly smaller than the $3 trillion bill passed by the House in May and would not include nearly as much funding for state and local governments.”
However, NBC News claimed the bill does incorporate extra unemployment benefits. The outlet described the plan as a “bridge” proposal between the previous price tags proposed by each side.
McConnell Called the Bipartisan Bill a ‘Waste’ of Time
On the topic of the new bipartisan bill, the Senate majority leader said, “We just don’t have time to waste time,” CNBC reported. McConnell said he would oppose spending as much as this bill calls for, according to The New York Times.
Instead, McConnell is persisting on the passage of a “targeted relief bill,” CNBC said.
Following his reelection victory, McConnell advocated for stimulus legislation similar to Senate Republicans’ recent $500 billion proposal — which was blocked by Senate Democrats before the election, according to an earlier CNBC article. The bill called for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses struggling to stay open during the pandemic.
President-elect Joe Biden on December 3 urged lawmakers to pass the $908 billion compromise bill in an interview on CNN, adding, “I think that, in fact, we’re going to need more. I’m going to have to ask for more help.”