McConnell: Compromise on COVID-19 Relief Package 'Within Reach'

McConnell: Compromise on COVID-19 Relief Package 'Within Reach'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaks at a press conference in Washington on Dec. 1, 2020. (Tom Williams/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

A compromise on a new stimulus is in sight, the top Republican in Congress said Dec. 3.

"Compromise is within reach. We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again. We can do this and we need to do this. So, let's be about actually making a law," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor in Washington.

McConnell ended his speech on that note, after blaming Democrats for Congress not passing a fresh stimulus in recent months.

"There is no actual reason why the fates of commonsense policies like a second round of the job-saving Paycheck Protection Program had to be linked to the fates of fringe proposals like stimulus checks for illegal immigrants. There is no reason why the fate of funding for vaccine distribution or extending unemployment aid or legal certitude for universities should have been tied to radical ideas like paying people more not to work than essential workers earn on the job. These linkages have been totally arbitrary," he said.

Democrat leaders "have tried to create a narrative where it's taken for granted that the most bipartisan, commonsense relief policies would live or die with their side's most outlandish ideas," he said.

Senate Democrats in September blocked a $300 billion stimulus and the next month blocked a $500 billion package, saying they didn't include enough provisions. Meanwhile, McConnell has declined to bring the $2.4 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed earlier this year, to a vote, arguing it was too broad and included unnecessary add-ons.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and McConnell spoke on Dec. 2, a Pelosi spokesman said. They talked over the phone "about their shared commitment to completing an omnibus and COVID relief as soon as possible," he said.

 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) participates in the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Dec. 2, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) participates in the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Dec. 2, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
This week, a bipartisan, bicameral group introduced a $908 billion proposal that on Dec. 2 gained the backing of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations," they said in a joint statement.

Rep. Tom Reed (D-N.Y.) said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Dec. 3 that the package isn't perfect, "but it is a compromise bill that can bring people together."

"I really believe now you are seeing the momentum in the next week to get this emergency package into law," said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.). "You've got Democrats and Republicans, both from the House and the Senate, backing this emergency relief package. There's a deep recognition we got to get something done now. People are really hurting."

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) on Dec. 3 called for McConnell to allow the bipartisan package on the floor for a vote.

"We do not need unanimous support for this proposal. What we need is a vote on the floor of the Senate. And that's why I'm asking Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on this proposal," she said.

McConnell recently said he didn't support the bipartisan package, while a top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, Larry Kudlow, called it a step in the right direction.

McConnell circulated his own bill to fellow senators after Trump vouched for it. Provisions in it were said to include funding for vaccines, schools, and unemployment assistance.