U.S. Congressional politicians on Thursday stayed far removed from the terms of a new COVID-19 economic relief plan, making a deal between Republicans and Democrats this week unlikely.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said it looks like negotiations could now slide into late December or even next year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, having rejected a key Democratic priority.
House Democrats have pushed to include $ 160 billion in aid to state and local governments to help close revenue gaps caused by an economic slowdown linked to a pandemic in the United States, which has recorded the most large number of infections and deaths in the world.
But Senate Republicans have demanded an accountability shield for businesses and large organizations, such as universities that want protection from COVID-19 lawsuits from people who have fallen ill or have died.
Pelosi called McConnell’s proposal an “assault on American workers” and said she hoped the bipartisan task force “didn’t come close to what it was presenting.”
Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating the terms of a more than $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief bill for weeks – but talks have often turned into partisan bickering, leaving millions of Americans without help for help them endure the pandemic.
But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed optimism Thursday, saying his discussions with US senators from both sides on the relief bill had made “a lot of progress.”
Progress has slowed
Progress, however, has been slowed and potentially complicated by a week-long delay in approving a year-end $ 1.4 trillion U.S. government funding bill that would serve as a legislative vehicle. essential for COVID-19 measurement.
Asked at her weekly press conference on when the COVID-19 relief legislation would be completed, Pelosi said she hoped it would be done by December 26, when federal unemployment benefits boosted. would expire.
“We can’t go home without it,” Pelosi said.
US politicians are under increasing pressure to take action to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
More than 292,000 people have died in the United States during the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University, and more than 19.5 million cases have been reported to date.
Millions of people are still unemployed, and the economic safety net provisions expire at the end of the year.
Pelosi said she had “great respect” for a group of bipartisan senators trying to negotiate a comprehensive COVID-19 relief compromise.
But she blamed McConnell for obstructing talks after Republican lawmakers signaled that there were not enough Republican votes in the Senate for this key Democratic provision on aid to states and local governments.
McConnell’s staff have told key negotiators that the Republican leader also sees no path to agreeing on a light version of the accountability shield, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed senior Democrat involved in the talks.
For his part, McConnell has accused Democrats of being beholden to special interests, including lawyers for plaintiffs who do not want prosecutions to be prevented.
Trial lawyers are among the Democrats’ most trusted sources of campaign money.
Coincidentally, Democrats say they’d rather not pass on * more * aid (PPP, vaccine distribution, unemployment aid) than to limit the ability of the plaintiff’s bar to take the money from reopening our nation.
– Chief McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 10, 2020
Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell continued to “hinder bipartisan progress” by imposing a “false equivalence” between aid to states and communities and a shield of corporate accountability.
“There is strong bipartisan support for public and local aid. There isn’t the same broad bipartisan support for blanket corporate immunity, ”Schumer said in remarks from the US Senate.
Republicans and Democrats have increasingly called for the COVID-19 relief bill to include $ 1,200 in direct payments to Americans.
“I will continue to work to make sure that every American worker receives a direct payment of $ 1,200 and we will not return home until this happens,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, threatening to delay the omnibus bill. $ 1.4 trillion unless that demand is met.
Separately, Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill that would provide payments of $ 1,200 to individuals, garnering support on Twitter from progressive House Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Meanwhile, Second Senate Republican John Thune told reporters on Capitol Hill that a vote on an interim measure to prevent a partial government shutdown would be postponed until Friday.