President-elect Joe Biden on Friday called for “urgent action” on a coronavirus-relief package, indicating that lawmakers should pass a bipartisan compromise package as a “down payment” toward additional coronavirus aid after he takes office.
“Americans need help and they need it now,” the president-elect said Friday. “And they need more to come early next year. But I must tell you I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in the Senate around a $900 billion package for relief.”
Biden warned that without quick action to provide relief as Covid cases surge across the country, “the future will be very bleak.”
Biden made clear that he would seek to work with Republicans to provide more economic stimulus next year. “Congress and President Trump must get a deal done for the American people, but any package passed in the lame duck session is not enough. It’s just the start,” he said. “Congress will need to act again in January.”
Biden said he was confident that he’ll be able to get Republicans to go along with an additional Covid package next year because the need will be so dire.
He also touched on the deficit concerns that have been raised by some Republicans in arguing against additional stimulus. “By acting now, even with deficit financing, we can add to growth in the near future,” he said. “In fact, economic research shows that with conditions like today’s crisis — especially with such low interest rates — not taking the actions I’m proposing, will hurt the economy, scar the workforce, reduce growth, and add to the national debt.”
Pelosi says “there is momentum” toward a deal: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said that momentum is building on Capitol Hill toward a coronavirus relief deal and defended her past handling of negotiations, including her pushback on a White House offer of about $1.8 trillion, larger than the deal now being discussed.
At her weekly press conference, Pelosi (D-CA) said she had spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) by phone on Thursday and said talks were making progress after a bipartisan group of lawmakers earlier this week proposed a $908 billion compromise deal.
“There is momentum,” Pelosi told reporters. “And so I am pleased that the tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”
Aid to state and local governments, which many Republicans oppose, and a “liability shield” protecting businesses and hospitals from coronavirus-related lawsuits, which Democrats have rejected, remain contentious issues. Negotiators have agreed that aid to state and local governments should be tied to a jurisdiction’s loss of revenue, not its population, The Washington Post reports.
‘Not a mistake’: Pelosi said her handling of earlier talks was “not a mistake” and explained that she was now willing to accept a smaller deal — the sort she had long rejected — because the election of Joe Biden as president and the development of promising vaccine candidates had changed the dynamic, creating the promise that an additional Covid-related rescue package could be done next year.
“With a Democratic president committed to a scientific solution for this, with the idea that we will have a vaccine, it’s a complete game-changer from then,” she said.
After months of stalemate, Pelosi said that Congress would not leave for the upcoming holidays without reaching a deal. “We must get it done before we leave,” she said. “We cannot leave without it.”
Sanders comes out against bipartisan package: As lawmakers scramble to reach a deal, the latest coronavirus relief plan still faces plenty of hurdles. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Friday said he would vote against the compromise package and would require significant revisions before he could support it.
The framework being considered doesn’t include another round of $1,200 direct payments. “Tens of millions of Americans living in desperation today would receive absolutely no financial help from this proposal. That is not acceptable,” Sanders said in a statement.
Some conservative lawmakers have also come out against the proposed package. “There’s widespread opposition among conservatives, particularly among our activists who are sick of Congress spending money we don’t have,” Jason Pye, vice president for legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, according to The Washington Post.
What’s next: Negotiators hope to reach a deal and release the legislative text by Monday. Pelosi and McConnell hope to tie the coronavirus-relief legislation to a broader, $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package, but time is running short. “The sheer number of outstanding items at such a late stage makes it increasingly likely that congressional negotiators will require a brief stopgap spending bill to complete their work before leaving for the holidays,” Politico reports. “Such a decision could be made early next week if lawmakers fail to make significant progress over the weekend.”