As lawmakers head into a make-or-break week for coronavirus aid discussions, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said he believes both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will provide crucial support for a $908 billion bipartisan relief framework.
“I’m optimistic that both those leaders will come on board,” Cassidy, a member of the group that released the framework, said in an interview on FOX News Sunday.
Though the $908 billion plan garnered support from both sides of the aisle in Washington last week, it won’t pass the Senate or be signed into law without buy-in from McConnell and Trump.
McConnell last week indicated that he would not support the $908 billion framework and is pushing a much smaller proposal of his own, though a number of GOP senators have signaled openness to the bipartisan plan.
President Trump—who before the election was prone to erratic declarations of support or ultimatums that often upended stimulus negotiations—last week said he believed negotiators were “getting very close to a deal.”
Although it wasn’t immediately clear if he was referring to the $908 billion bipartisan plan or the smaller proposal, the White House later said Trump was referring to McConnell’s plan, according to the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein.
“President Trump has indicated that he would sign a $908 billion package,” Sen. Cassidy said. “There was only one $908 billion package out there, and that’s ours. Leader McConnell has said he’s not interested in making a point. He wants something which passes into law. It only can pass into law if it’s bipartisan in the House and the Senate and ours is.”
Lawmakers will return to work Monday with just five days to avert a government shutdown by passing a new federal budget or a stop-gap short-term measure and a similar time crunch to deliver new pandemic relief legislation before the end of the year. It’s possible that the two efforts will be bundled together into one bill, though Politico reports that lawmakers will now need to pass a short-term spending bill first to give themselves enough time to pass something larger. “It really is a superhuman effort on our part to get this together in time to help the American people as quickly as possible,” top Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a Sunday interview on ABC’s This Week. Talks continued this weekend, CNN reported, though progress was slow and disagreements remain. Liability protections for businesses, a Republican priority that many Democrats oppose, are included in the framework. More federal aid to state and local governments, a Democratic priority without broad Republican support, is also included. That’s not to mention the snags remaining
What To Watch For
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told CNN Sunday that a final bill based on the $908 billion bipartisan framework could be ready as early as Monday.