Lawmakers have proposed a massive $1.4 trillion coronavirus relief package to help Americans suffering amid the pandemic. Still, the narrow timeline they have to push for the aid by next week’s deadline is worrying some politicians.
Sources from inside the White House and Senate said that officials are close to reaching an agreement about a deal. They expressed their optimism that lawmakers would be able to release new funding that would support the government beyond December 11.
However, the longer it takes to reach a final consensus on the relief package, the more likely it is that leaders of Congress would need more time to approve them. Politicians are anxious about the difficulties of handling both the coronavirus pandemic and the annual spending of the government.
For months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been in stalled talks over coronavirus relief packages. However, there signs on Wednesday that pointed to an increased possibility of having an aid approved.
On Monday, some sources said that Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer provided McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy with a secret $1.3 trillion proposal that was not able to move forward. Pelosi and Schumer later urged McConnell publicly to consider a previous bipartisan Senate proposal to begin negotiations.
In a statement, Pelosi and Schumer said that despite their submission of a proposal to McConnell and McCarthy, the duo shared their favor for the bipartisan, bicameral Senate proposal. They said, “Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate,” adding they would most likely come to an agreement using good-faith negotiations.
McConnell’s top GOP deputy, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, said the Democrats’ proposal was the first step in moving forward with a new coronavirus relief package. Leaders from both sides of the government have long been in a stalemate about the total funding of a new bill, with McConnell limiting it to $500 billion while Democrats push for more substantial support upwards of $2 trillion.
On Wednesday, Thune said that Democrats were asking for too much, adding they have agreed to compromise, which would help them come to an agreement.
With Americans watching eagerly for any development in the coronavirus relief package talks, Thine recommended to merge McConnell’s proposal and the bipartisan Senate package. However, he said the limited time Congress has before departing for the holidays would force a new coronavirus relief to “ride on the spending bill.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic would hopefully unite politicians and agree on a proposal, Politico reported.
On Monday, Hoyer talked with McConnell regarding their agreement that a new coronavirus relief package was needed to be released. They added lawmakers should find ways to finalize discussions this week, despite its unlikelihood.
Congress is known to push major deals through in the last moments of discussions, and many say this time would be the same. However, politicians have already floated the idea of spending an additional week in talks to give negotiations more time.
After meeting with McConnell, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby said lawmakers were near closing a deal about government funding. He said, “We’re close to closing a deal on the omnibus. We’re not there yet, but we’re close.” However, Shelby was not optimistic about reaching a consensus before the deadline.
Pelosi revealed that she had talked with U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin about the issue of government funding on Tuesday. The House speaker added she detailed the bipartisan progress that Shelby and Chairwoman Nita Lowey had made.