A group of bipartisan legislators including members from both the House and Senate unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus relief bill on Tuesday in hopes of ending the months-long gridlock between Democratic and Republican leadership in reaching a deal the White House would also sign off on.
What are the details?
NBC News reported that the proposal “is designed to include elements that will satisfy both parties,” but “it doesn’t include some popular provisions, like another round of direct payments to families.” It does include $180 to renew unemployment benefits, and $288 billion in support for small businesses.
But it also includes $160 million for state and local governments, which President Donald Trump has rejected in the past as a bail-out for blue states and cities that carried huge deficits prior to the crisis. In a nod to Republicans, the legislation would provide liability protections for businesses against COVID-19-related lawsuits in the “short-term,” which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has cited as a priority.
The Democrats in the group include Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Warner (Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), and Maggie Hassan (N.H.), along with Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Dean Phillips (Minn.), and Josh Gottheimer (N.J.).
The Republicans involved are Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Fred Upton (Mich.), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), and Tom Reed (N.Y.). The proposal is being presented in the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been in negotiations for months to reach a deal between Democrats and the White House, and the two spoke again on Tuesday. While all parties agree that relief is urgently needed, Democrats and Republicans have been far apart on priorities and price tags.
Senate Democrats have twice shot down a $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill offered by McConnell, and House Democrats have passed a $2.2 trillion package that is seen as a non-starter in the GOP-led upper chamber.
Also on Tuesday, McConnell offered a new proposal of his own, telling reporters at his weekly presser that he had spoken with Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on presenting a bill palatable to President Trump, according to the Hill.
The Senate majority leader did not directly address the $908 billion bill presented by the bipartisan coalition, but explained, “We just don’t have time to waste time. We have a couple weeks left here. Obviously, it does require bipartisan support to get out of Congress, but it requires a presidential signature.”
Sen. Romney, who has often been publicly at odds with the president, said Tuesday that the bipartisan group has been in contact with Mnuchin about their plan, but noted, “I don’t have any prediction on how the White House would react.” He added, “Covid has created a crisis. And in crisis the people expect Congress to act.”