With negotiations among congressional leaders at a standstill, senators in both parties have worked together for weeks on a proposal that could break the logjam. Several centrist lawmakers in the Senate — including Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — held a news conference Tuesday morning to push their proposal as a template for legislation that could pass Congress as the economy faces increasing strain from a winter surge in coronavirus cases.
“Our action to provide emergency relief is needed now more than ever before. The people need to know we are not going to leave until we get something accomplished,” Manchin said, flanked by about half a dozen lawmakers at the Capitol. “I’m committed to seeing this through.”
The plan circulated by the bipartisan group is light on details but seeks to reach a middle ground on numerous contentious economic issues.
It would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for four months — a lower amount than the $600 per week Democrats sought, while still offering substantial relief to tens of millions of jobless Americans. The agreement includes $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, a key Democratic priority opposed by most Republicans, as well as a temporary moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against firms and other entities — a key Republican priority that most Democrats oppose. The measure also includes funding for small businesses, schools, health care, transit authorities and student loans, among other measures.
Aides close to the effort described details as fluid and subject to change.
The effort still faces enormous hurdles, and most congressional aides are skeptical that the push will succeed. President Trump’s negotiators have remained at odds for months with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over multiple critical aspects of stimulus legislation, while Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were broadly uncomfortable with the amount of spending the White House pushed at times.
But the substantive efforts at a compromise in the Senate reflect growing agitation from influential senators against the hard-line stances of their respective leaders, who have struggled to reach another round of coronavirus relief aid even as the economy continues to suffer under the weight of the pandemic.
McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) have traded barbs, with McConnell on Monday accusing Democrats of “all-or-nothing obstruction.” Schumer said in a floor speech that “both sides must give,” but also trashed McConnell for advancing a GOP wish list in stimulus talks.
Some lawmakers have hoped that elements of a bipartisan stimulus deal could be added to the spending bill required to avoid a Dec. 11 government shutdown, although that could complicate the must-pass legislation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was scheduled to talk to Pelosi on Tuesday afternoon. They are expected to discuss both the must-pass government spending bill and stimulus efforts.
“I had a conversation yesterday afternoon as…