House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer finally caved and will agree to back a new $908 billion pandemic relief bill after a totally ruthless move to deny Trump a win and America the help they desperately needed before the election.
“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,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
“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,” they added.
“In light of the urgency of meeting the needs of the American people and the hope that the vaccine presents, 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.”
The bipartisan proposal – at roughly $908 billion – is still almost a trillion dollars less than what Pelosi and Democrats had been calling for, and more than what Republican leaders have said they’re willing to sign off on.
The framework of the bipartisan relief bill includes $288 billion in small business aid, $160 billion in state and local government relief, and $180 billion to fund a $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit through March.
It also provides $16 billion for vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing, funnels $82 billion into education, and provides $45 billion for transportation. It also allocates funds for rental assistance, child care and broadband.
The proposal does not include another direct payment to most Americans. It also would offer temporary federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits, even though Democrats largely oppose a broad liability shield.
It is unclear when the proposal will be ready for a vote on the House or Senate floor, or if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would even commit to calling it up for a vote.
“We just don’t have time to waste time,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday in response to the bipartisan proposal.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters that the bipartisan group would meet virtually later Wednesday to continue to flesh out details of the compromise bill. Romney said the group is “keenly aware” of the limited time they have to get this legislation considered and noted that he and other members intend to stay in town to work through the weekend and be available for negotiations. Romney indicated more members have joined the group but declined to say who those members were.
This latest development from Pelosi and Schumer comes as the top House Democrat Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that he wants the chamber to finish its legislative work for the year by next Friday so that members have enough time to get home and quarantine ahead of the Christmas holiday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country.
“I want to send members home, if possible, no later than the 11th,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters Wednesday. “The reason for that is if need be, they’ll get that time to quarantine before Christmas and to reintegrate with their families if they need to quarantine for any reason.”