Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to reach a compromise with Democrats on relief from the Covid relaunch met a cold reception from some lawmakers on Tuesday, as Congress struggles to reach an agreement before the end of the year.
Mr McConnell said on Tuesday Republicans would be prepared to drop their demand for liability protection to protect businesses, schools and other organizations during the pandemic – an issue he had previously described as a ‘red line’ for legislation – if Democrats were prepared to drop their demand for immediate funding for state and local governments.
Both parties could then return to the table and hammer a broader deal when President-elect Joe Biden’s administration takes office next year, McConnell suggested.
“My point of view and I think that is the point of view shared by literally everyone on both sides of the aisle: We cannot leave without making a Covid bill. The country needs it, ”he said. “I still believe we need to do whatever we can agree on.”
Shortly after, Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, said Mr McConnell’s proposal was not a fair compromise.
“Many Republicans support public and local funding. State and local funding is bipartisan. Unlike Leader McConnell’s proposal for extreme corporate responsibility, which has no Democratic backing, ”the Senate Minority Leader said at a press conference.
“Chief McConnell refused to participate in bipartite negotiations, and now he is sabotaging bona fide bipartite negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not well received.
Negotiations on a new stimulus package to help alleviate damage from the pandemic stalled ahead of the presidential election and only resumed in earnest last week, when a bipartisan group of senators unveiled compromise legislation worth $ 908 billion.
This package would include $ 288 billion in assistance to small businesses, $ 180 billion in unemployment benefits and $ 160 billion in assistance to state and local governments, among other measures. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the compromise bill should serve as a basis for negotiations.
Two senators involved in the bipartisan talks – Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire – have both criticized Mr McConnell’s proposal.
“I do not agree with this approach,” Shaheen told reporters on Tuesday.
Ms Collins said her “first preference” would be to keep both the liability protections and state and local government funding in the current bill because she supported both.
Separately, some senators not involved in the negations, including Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, and Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, have pushed for the interim relief plan to include additional stimulus checks for individuals.
Mr Sanders said he would vote against a Covid relief plan that did not include payments. President Donald Trump has publicly stated as recently as October that he is ready to sign a bill that includes $ 1,200 stimulus checks. A Washington Post report said Tuesday that the White House was pushing Senate Republicans to include $ 600 stimulus checks in the proposal.
However, no stimulus check is included in the current Senate proposal of $ 908 billion. Mr McConnell has previously expressed his opposition to a new round of payments.