WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday presented an optimistic assessment of the prospects for a mid-size COVID-19 relief bill and a separate spending bill of 1 , $ 4 trillion government-wide, relaunching on Friday spilling months of frustration on pandemic relief.
Pelosi told reporters that she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were on track on a plan to reach agreement on the massive omnibus spending bill and add COVID-19 relief to it. .
Pelosi said that a bipartisan, halfway plan being finalized by a diverse group of senators that she endorsed as the basis of the relief bill is a good effort, even if it is about ‘a significant step backwards from the Democrats’ position ahead of the election. .
“It’s a good product,” Pelosi said. “That’s not all we want.” Pelosi had dismissed an even bigger package launched by moderates in September as inadequate, but said the imminent arrival of vaccines and the victory of President-elect Joe Biden is a “game changer” that should guarantee more help. next year and the elimination of the pandemic. She called the bill a bridge “until the inauguration and emergence of the vaccine”.
When asked by a reporter why she would consider an aid bill of less than $ 1 trillion when she had previously rejected Republican proposals, she replied that “half a loaf,” replied Pelosi, prefacing your question if you want an answer. “
The California congresswoman said the decision “was not a mistake,” reiterating that “with a Democratic president committed to a scientific solution for this, with the idea that we will have a vaccine, it will be a game changer.” .
Pelosi and McConnell often fight and shoot each other, but they are an unstoppable force when their interests align. They spoke on the phone Thursday, a conversation that took place the day after Pelosi signaled his willingness to make major concessions in search of a $ 1 trillion COVID-19 bailout.
“We had a good conversation. I think we’re both interested in getting a result, both on the omnibus and on a coronavirus package, ”McConnell said Thursday.
The pace of economic recovery has slowed, the number of COVID-19 cases is skyrocketing and the daily death toll sets new records, a toxic statistical stew that shows the mandate of a second major relief program after months of broken promises. It’s also a promising time after Biden rallied behind the bipartisan measure and the main Democrats in Congress began to retreat to approve the $ 908 billion bipartisan framework as a way to build a deal.
Some conservatives, including Republicans in COVID-19 hotspots like North Dakota and Iowa, have said they are comfortable with an aid package that costs nearly $ 1 trillion. dollars. The $ 908 billion cost is what many Republicans, including McConnell, have indicated they are prepared to accept this summer before scaling back their ambitions to maintain GOP unity.
The scaled-down bipartisan measure is the product of talks between Republicans Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, as well as Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Dick Durbin of West Virginia. Illinois. . A well-meaning group of “problem solvers” who promise to deliver a bipartisan vote also lends credibility to the middle package.
A key ally of McConnell, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he was negotiating with fellow Judiciary Committee member Durbin over a much sought-after provision by Republicans and McConnell in particular that would give a shield of liability to businesses, universities and other organizations against COVID. -19 related prosecutions.
McConnell himself has said that a huge drop in Democratic demands – from over $ 2 trillion to under $ 1 trillion – was “at least a move in the right direction.”
And Trump weighed in to support the idea. Obtaining the necessary signature can be a bit of a tedious act, especially since any COVID-19 relief is likely to be added to a catch-all expense bill.
“I think they’re getting very close and I want that to happen,” Trump said.
The stake is to at least provide COVID-19 help now rather than wait for Biden to take office. Businesses, especially airlines, restaurants and healthcare providers, are in desperate need of help as the number of cases rises and deaths rise. Money is needed to help states distribute vaccines, and additional pandemic unemployment assistance, which provides additional weeks of jobless benefits, expires at the end of the month.
Biden is supporting as big an extra aid package as possible now. He said Wednesday that an aid package devised by moderates “wouldn’t be the answer, but it would be immediate help for a lot of things.” He wants a relief bill passed in Congress now, with more help coming next year.
The $ 908 billion measure would establish an jobless allowance of $ 300 per week, send $ 160 billion to help state and local governments, boost schools and universities, revive popular “paycheck protection” grants. For businesses and to bail out transit systems and airlines. A second round of $ 1,200 stimulus checks, pushed by both Trump and Pelosi, should not be included in the $ 908 billion.
The statement was a major concession from Pelosi and Schumer, who played hard this fall in failed pre-election talks with the administration over a more expensive bill. They wanted more generous unemployment benefit and more for state and local governments. Their acceptance of the $ 908 billion measure was a pullback from a secret $ 1.3 trillion offer the two Democrats had given McConnell on Monday.
The new plan includes a liability shield for businesses and other organizations that reopened during the pandemic. This is the first time Pelosi and Schumer have shown a willingness to consider the idea a top priority for McConnell, and Durbin’s involvement suggests a level of seriousness that had not been seen before.
McConnell had rejected the bipartisan offer on Tuesday, aiming instead to rally Republicans around the GOP’s $ 550 billion proposal. But McConnell himself approved a roughly $ 1 trillion plan this summer, only to meet resistance from the Tories that prompted him to step down. He acknowledged that another injection of aid to states and local governments, a key Pelosi request, is likely to pass eventually.
“There is momentum,” Pelosi said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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