Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dug in to his position on COVID-19 stimulus talks, arguing that his bill addresses a “bipartisan consensus” while refusing to endorse the one crafted by a bipartisan group.
The bipartisan, $908 billion proposal has attracted the support of leading Democrats and some Republicans, and is growing closer being finalized.
But speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, McConnell told Democrats to “drop the all-or-nothing tactics,” in rhetoric essentially unchanged from before the party’s leaders made compromises.
He argued that key issues demanded by one Democratic senator were already addressed in his smaller bill.
Congress is now contemplating an extension to the government spending bill deadline, to which lawmakers hope to attach COVID-19 relief measures.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to budge from his position on COVID-19 stimulus negotiations, slamming the Democratic Party and saying his bill already addresses a “bipartisan consensus.”
A bipartisan group of senators are rushing to finalize the wording on a separate, $908 billion proposal that McConnell has refused to back, preferring his own bill, which is much narrower.
The bipartisan plan has attracted the backing of leading Democratic figures such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who dropped their earlier demand for a $2.2 trillion plan in order to move bipartisan agreement along. The bipartisan plan also has growing support among Republicans.
However, a week after that proposal was first announced, McConnell’s rhetoric around bipartisanship remains essentially unchanged.
“Drop the all-or-nothing tactics, drop the hostage-taking, and make law in the many places where we have common ground,” he said on the Senate floor Monday, emphasizing the urgency of getting relief to Americans in the pandemic.
He argued that his own bill covers three areas that Democratic Party members have called to address – suggesting it is therefore essentially bipartisan.
Citing demands from Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, McConnell named three areas on which both parties agree in principle: “Extending unemployment insurance; helping small businesses; and funding vaccine distribution.”
“Those three urgent issues are issues where there is almost total bipartisan consensus … Check, check, and check,” he said.
There are, however, major differences between the two proposals:
The $908 billion stimulus package proposes support for small business loans, state and local government, education, unemployment insurance, healthcare, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
McConnell’s package omits federal unemployment benefits or aid for state and local government, according to The Washington Post. It has instead provisions for education, small business, and pandemic-related liability protections for businesses.
Neither package includes a second round of $1,200 checks.
McConnell’s package is closely modeled on a Republican-backed one that has failed to pass twice this fall.
He had earlier also argued that President Donald Trump would not sign the bipartisan bill if it passed, suggesting only his own plan would be signed into law.
The White House did not answer a query from Business Insider about whether this accurately represented the president’s position.
Read more: Meet Donald Trump’s new nemeses: The 15 prosecutors and investigators from New York who are primed to pepper the ex-president with history-making civil and criminal probes
Significant disagreements also remain within the discussions of the bipartisan proposal.
The two sticking points center around protections for businesses from coronavirus-related litigation, which the Republicans seek; and the scale of support to state and local government, which the Democrats want to expand.
On Wednesday, Congress will vote on a one-week extension of government funding to buy more time for COVID-19 relief negotiations. Congress aims to attach COVID-19 relief to the overall government spending package this month
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