Pelosi stimulus update

Pelosi stimulus update DEFAULT

Stimulus Prospects Grow as Leaders Agree to Try for Year-End Deal

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, have agreed to try to reach a deal that could be included in a must-pass spending measure.

WASHINGTON — The prospects for an elusive bipartisan stimulus deal appeared to brighten on Friday as Speaker Nancy Pelosi projected fresh optimism that the House and Senate could come to terms and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. prodded lawmakers to “act and act now” on a measure he insisted was within reach.

Even as liberal Democrats warned that the emerging compromise was woefully inadequate amid economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters that she and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, had agreed to redouble efforts to find a deal that could be merged with an enormous year-end spending package currently under discussion.

“That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference in the Capitol Friday morning, a day after speaking with Mr. McConnell. He expressed similar resolve on Thursday.

After months in which the two top congressional leaders refused to budge from their respective positions, the shared goal marked significant progress — particularly as Ms. Pelosi appeared poised to accept a far smaller stimulus package than she had championed.

But while momentum has built behind a $908 billion plan outlined by a bipartisan group of moderates that top Democrats have embraced as the starting point for talks, significant hurdles remained. No actual bill has been written yet, and Mr. McConnell has yet to offer an explicit endorsement of a plan that is several times larger than what he has previously said Republicans could accept.

Mr. Biden said on Friday that he was “confident” that an agreement was possible, but pointedly declined to answer when asked by reporters whether he had spoken with Mr. McConnell, a negotiating counterpart with whom he has brokered many deals.

“It’s not going to satisfy everybody,” Mr. Biden said of the compromise plan, “but the option is, if you insist on everything, we’re likely to get nothing on both sides.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and former Democratic candidate for president, was among those who were not satisfied. He said Friday afternoon that he could not support the proposal without changes, deriding the inclusion of a liability shield for businesses operating during the pandemic as “a get-out-of-jail-free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.” He said the omission of another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans was “unacceptable.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to significantly improve this bill,” Mr. Sanders concluded. “But, in its current form, I cannot support it.”

The compromise proposal was offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. The group and their aides are expected to continue working to finalize legislation through the weekend.

Stimulus talks have been stalemated for months, with lawmakers unable to resolve differences over issues like the liability protections, a Republican demand that Democrats have resisted, and providing federal aid to state and local governments, a top priority for Democrats that many Republicans oppose. They are also still struggling to resolve a number of policy disputes in the must-pass bills needed to keep the government funded beyond Dec. 11.

The emerging compromise would revive lapsed federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week for 18 weeks, and provide billions of dollars in funding for small businesses, schools and the imminent distribution of a vaccine.

“What I have real concerns about is the American people thinking Congress struck a deal, we’re getting Covid relief, and then their lives changing very little,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Will I support resources to hospitals and schools and firefighters? Absolutely. But I am extremely concerned that it’s not going to solve the immediate problems that people have.”

Though Ms. Pelosi conceded there were still obstacles to an agreement, she insisted there would be “sufficient time” to close a deal before the Dec. 11 government funding deadline. She pointed to lower-than-expected job gains reported on Friday as an added accelerant.

“There is momentum. There is momentum,” Ms. Pelosi said. “I am pleased that the tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”

After months of insisting she would not accept a slimmed-down relief bill, Ms. Pelosi now appears poised to accept less than one third of the spending Democrats initially proposed to prop up small businesses, help the uninsured and jobless, boost state and local governments, and meet immediate public health needs.

Mr. Biden and his advisers, faced with the prospect of the economy cratering even further before his inauguration on Jan. 20, have publicly pushed for lawmakers to reach agreement on a smaller package, promising more action in the coming months.

“To truly end this crisis, Congress is going to need to fund more testing as well as a more equitable and free distribution of the vaccine,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to need more economic relief to bridge through 2021 until this pandemic and economic crisis are over.”

Pressed on her reversal, Ms. Pelosi was defensive on Friday, saying her earlier, multitrillion-dollar proposals that Senate Republicans called nonstarters were “not a mistake” but important parts of a negotiating strategy that may now yield results. She insisted that Mr. Biden’s election and the looming arrival of two vaccines amounted to “a total game-changer.”

“President-elect Biden has said this package would be at best just a start,” she said. “That’s how we see it, as well. It is less money, but over a shorter period of time, and we need to do it to save lives and livelihood with the hope that much more help is on the way.”

Ms. Pelosi’s Republican adversaries portrayed her statements as an admission that she had put political considerations over those of American businesses and families. Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, called the remarks “despicable.”

“Anyone care to try and dispute the wasted time and damaged economy that came from this WASN’T flat out cynical politics on the Speakers part???,” Representative Bill Huizenga, Republican of Michigan, wrote on Twitter. “Workers and small businesses were crippled and we are in worse shape now because of it.”

Thomas Kaplan and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.


Second stimulus check updates: As Nancy Pelosi gives optimistic update, here’s what is on the table as Congress seeks a COVID-19 relief deal


Associated Press|

Dec 04, 2020 at 6:14 PM

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After numerous fits and starts and months of inaction, optimism is finally building in Washington for a COVID-19 aid bill that would offer relief for businesses, the unemployed, schools, and health care providers, among others struggling as caseloads are spiking.

Under pressure from moderates in both parties, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have initiated late-game negotiations in hopes of combining a relief package of, in all likelihood, less than $1 trillion with a separate $1.4 trillion governmentwide omnibus spending bill. The duo were the architects of the $1.8 trillion CARES Act, the landmark relief bill passed in March.

Success is not certain and considerable differences remain over items such as aid to states and local governments, liability protections for businesses and universities reopening during the pandemic, and whether to issue a second round of $1,200 direct payments to most Americans.

But renewing soon-to-expire jobless benefits, providing a second round of “paycheck protection” subsidies, and funding to distribute vaccines are sure bets to be included in any deal.

Here are the top issues for the end-stage COVID-19 relief talks.

The CARES Act created a $600 per-week bonus COVID-19 unemployment benefit that sustained household incomes and consumer demand during the springtime shutdowns. It expired at the end of July and Republicans are against its renewal. The CARES Act also allowed for additional weeks of emergency pandemic unemployment payments at regular benefit levels — which are themselves about to expire, on Dec. 31. Any deal is sure to extend the emergency benefits, and a bipartisan compromise framework that’s helping guide the talks calls for restoring half of the bonus benefit, or $300 per week more.

Another sure thing is a reauthorization of the Paycheck Protection Program, also established by the CARES Act, to give a second round of subsidies to businesses struggling through the pandemic and make other changes to the program, which enjoys bipartisan support but is particularly revered by Republicans. Leftover PPP funds from two springtime infusions into the program would cover almost half of the $300 billion or so cost.

President Trump has long supported another $1,200 round of direct payments to most Americans, subject to income limits that make upper-bracket taxpayers ineligible. House Democrats support the idea, but it is unpopular with many Senate Republicans and was left out of a scaled-back Senate GOP plan. A bipartisan bill by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and others, leaves out the direct payments as well, and their up to $300 billion cost could render them too expensive for inclusion in the year-end package, though lawmakers ranging from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., are pushing to retain them.


This is one of the trickiest issues in the talks — another round of aid to states and local governments to follow a $150 billion installment this spring. It’s a top priority of Pelosi and other Democrats but is opposed by many Republicans, who warn it would bail out states run by Democrats like California and New York. Trump doesn’t like the idea as well, but Pelosi’s demands for the money have been slashed from earlier amounts approaching $1 trillion. Revenue losses due to COVID-19 haven’t been as large as feared. But smaller localities left out of the first tranche of payments are eager for funding. A plan endorsed by moderates would provide $160 billion.

Businesses reopening during the pandemic have for months been seeking a shield against lawsuits claiming negligence for COVID-19 outbreaks. McConnell is the most potent backer of the idea and he’s drafted sweeping protections against lawsuits for businesses, universities, and other organizations. The powerful trial lawyers lobby — which still holds great influence with Democrats — is opposed, and McConnell’s fears of a wave of COVID-related lawsuits haven’t materialized. Veteran Senate Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have been deputized to negotiate the issue, a sign the talks are at a serious stage.

Numerous smaller items are ripe for inclusion, including $10 billion for the Postal Service, a $20 billion-plus deal adding food aid sought by Democrats and farm subsidies favored by Republicans, more than $100 billion in funding for schools seeking to reopen, along with funding for child care, Amtrak, transit systems, and health care providers.

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Pelosi says House to vote on bigger stimulus payments after GOP blocks increase

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that House Democrats would vote Monday on a standalone bill that would provide direct payments to Americans of $2,000 a person.

Pelosi, D-Calif., made the announcement moments after House Republicans blocked a Democratic bid to increase the payments as passed in the stimulus bill earlier this week from $600 a person to $2,000.

"On Monday, I will bring the House back to session, where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000. To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need," Pelosi said in a statement Thursday morning.

"Hopefully, by then the president will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief," she said.

The House is adjourned until Monday afternoon, when members will also vote on whether to override President Donald Trump's veto of the annual defense authorization bill.

Thursday's failed vote was the latest chapter in the saga of lawmakers' attempts to pass a massive stimulus package to provide economic relief during the crippling pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse.

Trump shredded the year-end spending and Covid-19 relief package this week, saying it includes too many provisions that have nothing to do with the pandemic and that it is too stingy with payments to average Americans. The $900 billion relief package, which was passed by both chambers of Congress, included a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

In a video posted to Twitter, Trump complained Tuesday night that the $600 stimulus checks were too small, arguing that qualifying individuals should get $2,000 and that couples should get $4,000.

After Trump's comments, House Democrats rushed to schedule a vote to increase the payments as Trump demanded. Because many members of the House are out of town, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, leaders tried to pass the bill by unanimous consent, which meant any single member could kill it.

Its failure to advance Thursday morning throws into further doubt the future of any imminent financial relief for millions of struggling Americans.

Hoyer blasted House Republicans on Thursday for blocking the increase in direct aid and Trump for not yet having signed the spending and relief legislation sitting on his desk. Hoyer repeatedly referred to Trump's videotaped statement calling the $600 direct payments "insufficient" and said that is why "we responded this morning." The unanimous consent request to pass the increased payments was "consistent with the president's request," Hoyer said.

A top Senate Republican also urged Trump on Thursday to sign the bill, while adding that he did not support raising the payments.

"The best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill, and I still hope that's what he decides to do," Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told reporters.

Asked whether a bill to increase direct payment checks from $600 to $2,000 would get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, Blunt said, "It would not."

Trump's comments Tuesday sent Washington spiraling into chaos after lawmakers had spent months hashing out a deal on the largest piece of legislation of the year, and it left many frustrated that Trump had waited so long to voice his concerns after largely having sat out the negotiation process.

Before Trump spoke, all signs and expectations had been that he intended to sign the bill as soon as it landed on his desk. White House aides also said as much.

House Democrats, who had advocated higher direct checks only to encounter Republican resistance in the Senate, immediately said they welcomed Trump's support for sending out more money.

The legislation already passed by Congress includes two bills that were combined: One was the Covid-19 relief and stimulus bill, and the other was a large spending bill to fund the government through September. If the spending bill is not enacted, the government will have to start shutting down beginning Tuesday.

Pelosi tweeted Thursday afternoon that the bill was being sent to Trump and urged him to sign it.

Hoyer said earlier, "We're not going to let the government shut down," adding, "We are considering options and what steps we will take."

After the vote on the direct payments failed, House Republicans made their own unanimous consent request to "revisit" the foreign aid part of the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package, a move the Democrats then blocked. Trump had railed against wasteful foreign spending in his comments this week, even though his own budget proposal had included the provisions he singled out for criticism.

Adam Edelman is a political reporter for NBC News.

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp V contributed.

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