By Zachary Stieber
Senators crafting a fresh, bipartisan COVID-19 relief package promised Sunday not to leave Washington without approving the legislation.
“There is no way we’re going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said.
“There will be a deal,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) added.
Manchin and Cassidy are part of a bipartisan, bicameral group that offered a $908 billion stimulus proposal on Dec. 1.
The proposal is finally set to be released to the public on Monday.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Sunday that lawmakers “should not leave for the holidays until we have adopted that $908 billion framework to give a next round of relief to the millions of Americans who are facing eviction, hunger, unemployment, disease.”
“I am really optimistic we can get this done this coming week,” he added.
Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus in March. President Donald Trump signed it.
The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion package in May but the Senate and the White House opposed the legislation, calling it unwieldy. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, blocked a Republican-crafted package in October.
Negotiations on a second major package have dragged on, with few signs of an ultimate compromise. The new bipartisan proposal seeks to cut through the stalled efforts.
“The bottom line is, there’s a lot of parts to this bill. And then the spirit of compromise, you have to work through all of that. But at the end, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Manchin said.
“We’re the only bipartisan game in town. We’re the only one where people have come together from both parties and said, listen, I’m not with you on that, but if you give me this, I will give you that, because we have got to do something for the American people,” added Cassidy.
Manchin was speaking on “Fox News Sunday.” Cassidy was speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Coons was speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The group needs to win the support of both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), not to mention Trump.
Pelosi spoke with Trump’s top negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, over the phone on Sunday afternoon for about 30 minutes.
Pelosi’s spokesman said the speaker insisted on the need for funding to state and local governments and on a compromise on liability rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pair plan on speaking again on Monday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on CNN’s “Inside Politics” on Sunday that leadership in the House could accept a package that doesn’t include money for governments.
“We need to get the essential done and we’ll have time to get stuff done that we didn’t include,” he said.
McConnell said on the Senate floor last week that he offered to set aside liability protections for businesses, one of Republicans’ major requests, in order to get a package passed, if Democrats dropped one of their “controversial outstanding demands.”
“But day after day, the Democratic leader finds new reasons not to compromise, new ways to avoid taking yes for an answer.” he said. “In what universe should emergency aid for small businesses be contingent, contingent on massive bailouts for state governments with no linkage to actual needs? Democrats are acting like it’s more important to supply the governor of California with a special slush fund than to help restaurant workers in California keep their jobs.”
McConnell said a deal should include only matters that have a bipartisan consensus, such as a second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, money for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and an extension of unemployment programs.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) followed by casting the blame on Republicans.
“It’s December, and we still—because of the leader’s intransigence—have nothing of significance to help the American people during the worst economic crisis in 75 years, and the greatest public health crisis in a century. Why? Why can’t we get together? Why can’t there be the bipartisanship that Americans search for and yearn for?” Schumer said.
“At a time of such great crisis, there is one reason why America’s two major parties have not gotten together during the time of acute national emergency, and that is because the Republican leader has demanded a partisan poison pill, a sweeping corporate liability shield, be included in any legislation, otherwise he won’t let it pass.”
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