cloudyn.png
Thursday April 15th, 2021 1:00AM

Talks escalate on new COVID-19 relief, top lawmakers to meet

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Talks on a long-delayed COVID-19 aid package intensified Tuesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summoned other top congressional leaders for a potentially critical meeting.

Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for more than an hour, her office tweeted, and Mnuchin will join the make-or-break meeting of Capitol Hill’s “big four” leaders by phone.

The uptick in activity could be a sign that an agreement is near, though COVID-19 relief talks have been notoriously difficult.

Pelosi hasn't met with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in months. The Kentucky Republican is playing a strong hand in the lame-duck session and is pressuring Democrats to drop a much-sought $160 billion aid package for states and local governments struggling to balance their budgets because of the pandemic.

Rank-and-file Democrats appear increasingly resigned to having to drop, for now, the party's demand for fiscal relief for states and local governments whose budgets have been thrown out of balance by the pandemic.

Pelosi, D-Calif., pressed in talks with Mnuchin on Monday for help for struggling states and localities. But top Democratic allies of President-elect Joe Biden came out in support of a $748 billion plan offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and hinted they won't insist on a pitched battle for state and local aid now.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer to act. This should not be Congress’ last COVID relief bill, but it is a strong compromise that deserves support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. “We cannot leave for the holidays without getting relief to those Americans who need it.”

The message from Coons, a confidant of Biden, and a similar message from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., came as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a detailed COVID-19 aid proposal in hopes it would serve as a model for their battling leaders to follow as they try to negotiate a final agreement.

But the group was unable to forge a compromise on GOP-sought provisions shielding businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits, a key priority of McConnell. He is pressing a lowest-common-denominator approach that would drop the lawsuit shield idea for now if Democrats agree to drop a $160 billion state and local aid package.

“We can live to fight another day on what we disagree on,” McConnell said Tuesday. “But we ought to go forward with what we can agree on."

Pelosi has insisted for months that state and local aid would be in any final bill, but as time is running out, Democrats appear unwilling to hold the rest of the package hostage over the demand. Several Democrats appeared at a bipartisan news conference on Monday to endorse the $748 billion package.

“We’re not going home until this is done,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on CNN Tuesday morning. “We’ve got to get people a lifeline. It will pass — the $748 (billion).”

The $748 billion aid package contains money for struggling businesses, the unemployed, schools and vaccine distribution. There is also $45 billion for transportation and transit assistance, funding for rural internet service and help for the Postal Service, among other provisions. The other bill proposes a $160 billion aid package for state and local governments and a modified liability shield that is backed by Republicans and Democratic moderate Manchin, but it is probably too politically freighted to advance.

Outstanding issues in the leadership talks include a potential second round of direct payments to individuals, a plan for $300-per-week bonus unemployment benefits, state and local aid, and the GOP-sought liability shield against COVID-19-related lawsuits.

Lawmakers also worked to finalize a yearend catchall funding package that will be the basis for the last significant legislation of the Trump presidency.

There's a hoped-for deadline of midnight Friday to deliver the completed package to President Donald Trump, which is when a partial government shutdown would arrive with the expiration of last week's temporary funding bill. But there's no guarantee that the massive yearend measure will be completed in time. If the talks drag, further temporary bills could be needed.

Negotiations on the $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill are “essentially finished," said a congressional aide participating in the talks. While details are closely held, “the status quo is prevailing." That means Trump would get another $1.4 billion or so for a final installment to continue construction of his long-sought U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Republicans have succeeded in killing a $12 billion plan to break last year's budget mini-agreement by using accounting maneuvers to pad veterans health care funding to accommodate big cost increases from expanding access to health care services from private providers. Instead, a different set of moves is being employed to provide for equivalent spending increases for other domestic programs.

The post-election lame-duck session is the last chance to wrap up the unfinished work this year, a goal of all involved, though they have been slow until now to forge the often-tricky compromises required to pull the measure together.

Pelosi has not thrown in the towel on her drive to obtain state and local aid, which was part of the almost $2 trillion CARES Act that passed the Senate unanimously in March. The $150 billion aid package to states and large cities evoked little controversy then, but many Republicans are adamantly against the idea now, though any additional aid would also go to smaller municipalities left out of the prior round.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: 4th Ga. Republican representative tests positive
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk has tested positive for COVID-19
2:46PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Over-the-counter home test for COVID-19 gets US green light
A home test for COVID-19 will soon be on U.S. store shelves
2:45PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Does Electoral College end election for conservative media?
The Electoral College vote could be a tipping point for many in the conservative media: Do they continue echoing President Donald Trump's no-retreat stance, or do they begin moving on
2:43PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Talks escalate on new COVID-19 relief, top lawmakers to meet
The pace is intensifying as Washington negotiators try to reach agreement on COVID-19 relief
2:22PM ( 37 minutes ago )
AP sources: Biden picks Buttigieg as transportation chief
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to pick former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg to head the transportation department
2:09PM ( 51 minutes ago )
US vaccinations ramp up as 2nd COVID-19 shot nears
Hundreds more U.S. hospitals are gearing up to vaccinate their workers as federal health officials posted a positive review of a second COVID-19 shot
2:03PM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
McConnell congratulates Joe Biden as president-elect
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Democrat Joe Biden on Tuesday as the president-elect
10:27AM ( 4 hours ago )
Family members who own Purdue to appear before Congress
Two members of the Sackler family have agreed to make a rare public appearance to take questions from a congressional committee that is investigating the role of the company they own, Purdue Pharma, in fueling the nation's opioid epidemic
10:07AM ( 4 hours ago )
Top official of South Africa's ruling ANC urged to step down
The secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, may be forced to step down after the party’s integrity commission recommended that he be suspended because he has been charged with corruption
9:58AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Fashion mogul Peter Nygard arrested in Canada on sex charges
Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been arrested on charges alleging he sexually assaulted women and girls after luring them into his orbit with fashion and modeling opportunities
2:19PM ( 41 minutes ago )
UK urged to ax 'rash' easing of restrictions over Christmas
The four nations of the United Kingdom are facing mounting calls to scrap
2:19PM ( 42 minutes ago )
Wall Street tries again to snap losing streak, pushes higher
Stocks on Wall Street are making another run at breaking their losing streak, and the S&P 500 is up 1.1% in afternoon trading on Tuesday
2:13PM ( 47 minutes ago )
AP Business
US industrial production up 0.4% in November with auto boost
U.S. industrial production increased 0.4% in November with manufacturing receiving a boost from a rebound in output at auto plants after three months of declines
10:22AM ( 4 hours ago )
Australian PM says China coal ban would breach WTO rules
Australia’s prime minister says that China would be violating World Trade Organization rules and a bilateral free trade agreement if it banned Australian coal
4:34AM ( 10 hours ago )
UK sees record number of job losses during 3- month period
The number of people in the U.K. who lost their jobs hit a record high in the three months through October during the run-up to the planned ending of a government salary support scheme
4:14AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
The Latest: 4th Ga. Republican representative tests positive
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk has tested positive for COVID-19
2:46PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Over-the-counter home test for COVID-19 gets US green light
A home test for COVID-19 will soon be on U.S. store shelves
2:45PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Does Electoral College end election for conservative media?
The Electoral College vote could be a tipping point for many in the conservative media: Do they continue echoing President Donald Trump's no-retreat stance, or do they begin moving on
2:43PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Judge approves settlement in women's sports case at Brown
A federal judge has approved a settlement between Brown University and student-athletes who had challenged the Ivy League school’s decision to drop several women’s varsity sports
2:34PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Mrs. Trump visits children's hospital, a holiday tradition
Melania Trump isn't letting the coronavirus pandemic halt a decadeslong tradition of first ladies visiting a Washington, D
2:32PM ( 28 minutes ago )