'We are not leaving': Mitch McConnell pledges Congress won't break for the year until a stimulus plan is passed
- Republican leaders say they are determined to pass a coronavirus stimulus that includes provisions both sides agree on.
- The package would contain money to distribute the vaccine, forgivable loans for small businesses, and support for schools.
- It would leave out contentious issues, including money for states and liability protections for businesses.
- "No matter how long it takes, we'll be here," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Tuesday that
"We're not leaving here without a COVID package," McConnell said Tuesday at the weekly Republican press conference.
"No matter how long it takes, we'll be here," he added.
The Kentucky Republican reiterated his offer from last week to put aside his push for a liability shield for employers against virus-related lawsuits if
McConnell pointed to President-elect Joe Biden's strong support for another relief package and said there would be more time next year to debate the two contentious issues.
"We all know the new administration will be asking for yet another package," McConnell said. "It's not like we won't have another opportunity to debate the merits of liability reform and of state and local government in the very near future."
Most Senate Democrats, apart from Joe Manchin of West Virginia, oppose the liability protections that McConnell has proposed. Many
McConnell first offered to set aside liability protections last week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer turned him down. McConnell twice tried to bring a $500 billion relief bill to the Senate floor in September and October, but it was blocked by Democrats who panned it as insufficient.
"We have been trying for months," McConnell said. "We shouldn't have been put in this position."
But there are signs that Democratic opposition to punting the issue until next year is softening. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer opened the door in a CNN interview on Sunday to omitting state and local aid from a relief package, which has been a top Democratic priority. Several Democrats in the House and Senate agree with that approach, which could put pressure on Democratic leaders.
Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all met on Tuesday afternoon, their first in-person meeting on Capitol Hill in several months to continue discussions on the federal rescue package as well as the year-long spending bill.
The four leaders later met a second time at Pelosi's office in a sign that negotiations are picking up speed. McCarthy told reporters the top leaders were "exchanging our papers" and struck an optimistic tone on the odds of a final deal.
McConnell echoed that as well. "We're making significant progress and I'm optimistic that we're gonna be able to complete an understanding sometime soon," McConnell said on Tuesday evening after the meeting ended.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers attempted to end the logjam over a new federal rescue package by introducing two separate bills on Monday. One contained $748 billion in funding with provisions that most lawmakers support, and the other included the divisive issues over liability shield for businesses and emergency state funding.
Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told Business Insider on Tuesday the state of negotiations remained "very fluid."
"There's no question that in a literal sense something is better than nothing, but I think a lot more needs to be done," he said in a brief afternoon interview on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers have until midnight on Friday to pass spending legislation or many parts of the federal government would shut down. Congressional leaders aim to attach pandemic relief measures to the government funding bill.
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