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Home Business Congressional Leaders to Meet Tuesday on Covid, Year-End Spending

Congressional Leaders to Meet Tuesday on Covid, Year-End Spending


DECEMBER 15, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The top four congressional leaders plan to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss a coronavirus relief package and a sweeping spending bill, as Congress races to find an agreement before critical support programs expire at year’s end.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) will confer late Tuesday afternoon, the first meeting of all four leaders in weeks and a signal that they could be ready to make the difficult decisions needed to cut a deal.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who spoke to Mrs. Pelosi earlier Tuesday for more than an hour, will also call into the meeting, Mrs. Pelosi’s spokesman said on Twitter.

The meeting comes one day after a bipartisan group of lawmakers largely wrapped up their work on a compromise coronavirus relief proposal. That agreement included an extension of unemployment insurance and funding for schools, vaccine distribution and small businesses, among other provisions.

But the bipartisan coalition came up short in its efforts to reach a broad deal on the thorniest issue: liability protections for businesses and other entities operating during the pandemic. Instead, lawmakers released a $748 billion bill bundling together many of the less-controversial proposals but excluding liability protections backed by Republicans and $160 billion in state and local aid sought by Democrats.

GOP leaders said last week that Congress should end the standoff by leaving out the liability provisions and state and local aid and proceeding with the other relief measures.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of Senate GOP leadership, said the decision to split off the more controversial issues indicated an awareness that only the bill with wide consensus had a path to becoming law.

“It is just my impression on the way that the negotiating group has separated those two issues—it seems to take Sen. McConnell’s advice and leave those to the side and do what we can,” Mr. Cornyn told reporters Tuesday.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer hadn’t indicated as of Tuesday afternoon whether they were inclined to support a smaller package that excluded funding for state and local governments.

Regarding the meeting, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that President Trump, who has called for a new round of checks to most Americans, would wait and see what a possible deal looks like.

“He’s said that he would really like to see those stimulus checks in there, but his priority at the end of the day is getting relief to the American people,” she said. “We’re hopeful there will be some sort of agreement.”

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of Senate Democratic leadership who was involved in the bipartisan talks, said that he supported moving forward with the $748 billion bill.

“While the fight continues over these issues, we must provide some emergency relief for the American people before we go home for the holidays. I support the $748 billion bipartisan package,” he said in a statement Monday night.

Congressional leaders have said they hope to attach a coronavirus relief package to a full-year spending bill currently being completed. The government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday.

Courtesy/Source: WSJ