Blue Dog Dems Push Pelosi to Reopen Negotiations

Blue Dog Dems Push Pelosi to Reopen Negotiations

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

A group of moderate Democrats in the House plans to send a letter to congressional leaders urging them to start talking again about the stalled coronavirus relief bill.

"As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis," the group wrote in a draft of the letter, according to Roll Call.

The letter comes from the Blue Dog Coalition, a House caucus with 26 members that advocates for fiscal responsibility, national defense and bipartisan consensus. The group said there is "considerable common ground" between the two sides in the negotiations, including an extension for enhanced unemployment benefits, more help for small businesses, funding for education, and another round of stimulus payments.

Where things stand:
Negotiations over a new relief bill broke down earlier this month, and there are currently no clear plans for restarting them, though pressure has been building for legislation of some sort. "Lawmakers from both parties are growing increasingly worried by the stalemate over a coronavirus aid package, but internal divisions on each side are complicating their efforts to propose new measures," The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening.

More than half the House Democratic caucus has urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to add new funding for enhanced unemployment benefits tied to the jobless rate to the bill providing $25 billion for the Postal Service. The House is set to vote on that Postal Service legislation on Saturday.

The White House, meanwhile, has been pushing for a "skinny" relief package that would include an enhanced unemployment benefit, money for the Paycheck Protection Program of loans to small businesses and another round of direct payments to individuals.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that the administration would be open to $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service depending on what else was included in the package. "We’re certainly open to looking at the $25 billion. But we want included in there relief for the American people that thus far Speaker Pelosi has been entirely uninterested in," McEnany told reporters.

Some Senate Republicans have also floated a roughly $500 billion package — half the size of the previous GOP proposal — that reportedly is expected to include a $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit through December 27 while also providing a liability shield for businesses and hospitals, $29 billion in health-care funding and $105 billion for education. But it remains unclear if that skinnier package can garner enough support even among Senate Republicans.