The two Democrat leaders in Congress on Wednesday endorsed a bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief package put forth by a group of lawmakers the day prior.
“While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, 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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.
“Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement. With the imminent availability of the vaccine, it is important for there to be additional funding for distribution to take the vaccine to vaccination. This distribution effort will be led by the states further increasing the need for funding for state and local governments,” they added.
The Democrats sent a new stimulus proposal to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.
About a dozen lawmakers spanning the House and Senate introduced the $908 billion bipartisan package on Tuesday. The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes 25 lawmakers from each party, is backing the proposal.
“We can’t allow some to prioritize politics ahead of the pandemic. This four-month COVID-19 emergency relief package will help get us through the hardest months of winter and into a new administration. It’s an essential down payment in what our families, small businesses, and local communities need,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told reporters.
“I don’t like borrowing money, I don’t like spending money we don’t have, but the time to borrow money, maybe the only time to borrow money is when there’s a crisis and this is a crisis,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added.
The package includes a $228 billion infusion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses stay afloat amid the economic conditions caused by harsh measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and $11 billion for community development funds. There’s also money for unemployment assistance, childcare, and rental assistance.
The bulk of the package is funds that were already allocated in the CARES Act, the major stimulus package passed in March. Those funds haven’t been used but require another approval so they can be repurposed.
McConnell’s package includes funding for vaccines and schools, and unemployment assistance.
Larry Kudlow, a top economic adviser to Trump, told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday morning that the bipartisan package is “a constructive effort” that “moves the ball in the right direction.”
Republicans have offered several packages far narrower than the packages of $2.2-trillion plus from Democrats. Those packages have been blocked by Schumer.
Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, making a bipartisan package the only option. Whatever packages passes would require a signing from Trump.