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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus stimulus plan as the basis for relief talks as Congress scrambles to send aid to Americans before the end of the year.
In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders endorsed a more narrow aid approach than they have previously. The California and New York Democrats had insisted on legislation that costs at least $2.2 trillion.
“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,” Schumer and Pelosi said.
Tens of millions of Americans remain out of work or are experiencing food insecurity, while many states around the nation are being forced into another round of lockdowns as infection rates soar to new records.
As of Wednesday, the virus has infected 13.8 million people in the US and killed 271,000.
Pelosi has come under increasing fire for failing to reach a deal with the GOP after Democrats spurned smaller, targeted bills with unemployment assistance and relief for small businesses.
Democrats have not been willing to go along with the piecemeal approach being presented by Republicans, and insist that having come down to $2.4 trillion from their $3 trillion bill passed in May was enough.
The renewed push for coronavirus relief and unresolved budget issues are complicating the massive $1.4 trillion spending deal, with lawmakers saying they need to reach an agreement in the coming days in order to pass the measure by next week’s deadline.
Both House and Senate aides close to the talks insist that appropriators are inching closer to a deal and remain optimistic that legislation will come together to keep the government open past Dec. 11.
But the longer talks drag out, the more likely it becomes that congressional leaders will need extra time to close out an agreement on fiscal 2021 funding. Further hampering matters is the last-minute push by top lawmakers to address the surging coronavirus pandemic alongside annual spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been in a standoff for months over coronavirus funding — but there were glimmers of hope late Wednesday that the chances for a deal may be improving.
Democratic leaders signaled Wednesday they were prepared to reduce their demands for the next round of coronavirus relief, fueling hopes that an agreement could be reached with Republicans by year’s end to boost struggling businesses and households.
Congressional leaders have been mired in disagreements for months. In a sign that the partisan standoff was easing, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said that a new, bipartisan $908 billion relief proposal released Tuesday should serve as the starting point for talks with GOP leaders and the White House.
“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,” Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in a 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.”