Senate Leader McConnell Vows ‘We’re Not Leaving’ Without Covid-19 Relief As Rank And File Stews Over Lack Of Stimulus Checks

Topline

Ahead of a critical meeting of Congressional leaders on the next round of federal coronavirus aid, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that lawmakers will not break for the holidays until a new coronavirus relief bill passes and emphasized his belief that the two most contentious issues on the table—state, local and tribal aid and liability protections for businesses—should be left out of the deal in order to expedite relief. 

Key Facts

McConnell’s statements echoed a similar assurance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who last week told reporters that “we cannot leave here without having a piece of legislation,” as well as promises from a number of lawmakers in both chambers on Capitol Hill. 

McConnell is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon with Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hash out the next aid bill. 

The meeting is the first to involve all the key players at once after months of gridlock, and many are viewing it as a hopeful sign that top lawmakers and officials are finally prepared to reach a deal.  

Lawmakers are contending with a Friday government shutdown deadline before which they must either pass an omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2021 (which began October 1) or a continuing resolution that will keep the lights on in the short term to buy more time to finish the larger legislation. 

The leaders hope to attach the coronavirus relief provisions to that omnibus spending bill so both measures can be passed at once.

During her press briefing last week, Pelosi suggested that she was “hopeful” lawmakers would meet their deadline at the end of this week, but noted that they would take more time if necessary and appeared to imply that December 26, when two emergency unemployment programs would expire, would be a more realistic deadline. 

Crucial Quote

“We’re not leaving here without a Covid package,” McConnell said during a press briefing Tuesday. “No matter how long it takes.”

Key Background

As they meet on Tuesday, McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, McCarthy, and Mnuchin will presumably need to grapple with the two thorniest issues holding up the talks so far: state and local aid and liability protections from Covid-19 lawsuits for businesses. During his press briefing, the Senate Majority Leader suggested (as he has before) that those two provisions should be revisited in the new year and left out of the bill lawmakers are now debating. “That is the way forward,” he said. It’s not clear whether the Democrats will be willing to support a plan that does not include additional aid for states and local governments, which has been a major priority for Pelosi and her caucus over the last several months. 

Chief Critic

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) took aim at the $908 billion plan introduced two weeks ago by a bipartisan group of centrist lawmakers that according to Axios is being used as a template by GOP leadership to draft the final relief package. The plan (now split into two parts, a $748 billion bill and a $160 bill containing only the liability and state and local aid provisions) does not provide for a second round of direct payments to the general public. “Now we are okay with no stimulus checks?” Khanna wrote on Twitter, joining a chorus of lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in calling for that provision’s inclusion in the final bill. “Americans are livid with Congress. It’s not hard. Listen to what people need.” Khanna and a handful of other progressive lawmakers are urging Congress to bump the next round of direct payments up to $2,000 (from $1,200 in the CARES Act) and extend supplemental unemployment benefits for six months rather than the three months the bipartisan group has proposed.

 Further Reading

Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer, And McCarthy Set For Pivotal Stimulus Meeting Ahead Of Friday Shutdown Deadline (Forbes)

Warren Buffett On Stimulus Gridlock: ‘Just Renew The PPP And Get Us To The End Of The Tunnel’ (Forbes)

Unable To Bridge Gap On Toughest Issues, Bipartisan Negotiators ‘Implore’ Congress To Vote Now On Parts Of $908 Billion Stimulus Plan (Forbes)

Bipartisan Lawmakers Finally Ready To Release $908 Billion Stimulus Bill, But The Plan Is Far From A Done Deal (Forbes)

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