Dueling paths for coronavirus aid, price range payments as U.S. Congress enters key week
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The US Capitol Building is reflected in a marble seating area on the Eastern Front on Capitol Hill in Washington after a rainstorm
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two efforts were made at the U.S. Congress on Monday to secure a massive government spending deal that would prevent the government from closing as Republicans and Democrats insisted they put another round of aid to one want to accommodate coronavirus-affected nation.
Both parties’ leaders were more optimistic as they passed the first COVID-19 relief bill since April, while a bipartisan group of lawmakers formulated their own approach. The COVID-19 aid could be tied to a critical spending measure that needs to be passed by Friday to avoid a federal government shutdown.
Leading lawmakers have drafted this move, a $ 1.4 trillion spending bill for fiscal year beginning October 1. It would include money for programs ranging from health care, homeland security and military readiness to foreign aid, national parks and nutrition. They were temporarily funded.
Senator John Cornyn, a senior Republican, said an agreement on pandemic aid was needed between Democratic House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. He said he hoped for a result by Wednesday.
“I think they have spoken and I am confident that their staff are engaged,” Cornyn told reporters. As for the bipartisan package, “I think it has a huge and positive impact on what is what will ultimately be included,” Cornyn said.
Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Committee on Funds, said the government spending bill could be tabled as early as Tuesday, and he was hoping it would include COVID-19 relief. “I’ve always suggested that, I hope so. We have to agree on the COVID stuff,” he told reporters.
Without a spending deal, the government would have to begin shutting down non-emergency programs and putting many workers on leave amid a pandemic that killed 300,000 Americans, left millions of people unemployed, and deteriorated over the winter.
McConnell said his party was ready to pass on about COVID-19 and urged Democrats to do the same in a speech that avoided part of both parties’ finger pointing last week.
“The next few days will produce one of two results,” said McConnell as he opened the Senate.
“Either 100 senators here will shake their heads, put the blame on themselves, and make excuses for why we still couldn’t pass a law. Or we will pause for the holidays after we got another big dose of relief for the people out the door having sent.” who needs it, “he said.
McConnell said funding for personal protective equipment, vaccine distribution, and prolonged unemployment should be included in any plan.
A bipartisan group of House and Senate legislators presented their own package and offered two proposals that could be voted on separately.
One, a $ 748 billion proposal, includes aid to small businesses, the unemployed, and vaccine distribution. It would offer $ 300 extra weekly benefits to the unemployed for 16 weeks.
The other bipartisan proposal includes the two main sticking points on Capitol Hill: liability protection for Republican-backed companies and $ 160 billion for state and local governments, a Democratic priority. But not even all non-partisan lawmakers support this.
“Bipartisanism and compromise are alive and well in Washington, contrary to what you’ve heard,” Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat and a major sponsor, told a press conference. “It is now up to the leadership to take it over and implement it in good time.”
Local health officials fear they won’t have enough money to run a massive COVID-19 vaccination program if there isn’t a deal, even as the first US doses of Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 vaccine was administered on Monday.
President-elect Joe Biden has urged Congress to respond swiftly to coronavirus aid before taking office on January 20. Even if it does, his new administration will likely seek another round of aid next year.
Democrats have pushed hard for help from state and local governments to prevent more workers, including police, fire departments and emergency medical personnel, from being laid off. The Republicans have generally resisted, accusing the Democrats of creating a “slush fund” for cities and states controlled by members of their party.