Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dug in on 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.
But McConnell told Democrats on Monday to “drop the all-or-nothing tactics” — 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 also contemplating a short-term extension of government funding. Lawmakers could attach COVID-19 relief measures to a funding bill.
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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 “bipartisan consensus.”
A bipartisan group of senators is rushing to finalize the wording of a $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 Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who dropped their demand for a $2.2 trillion plan. The plan has also gained support among Republicans.
But a week after that proposal was announced, McConnell’s rhetoric about 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 on Monday, emphasizing the urgency of getting relief to Americans in the pandemic.
He argued that his own bill covered three areas that Democrats had called to address, suggesting it is therefore bipartisan.
Citing demands from Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, McConnell named three areas where both parties agreed 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,” he said, adding, “Check, check, and check.”
There are, however, major differences between the two proposals:
The $908 billion stimulus package proposes support for small businesses, state and local governments, schools, unemployed people, and healthcare providers, as well as funding for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
McConnell’s package omits federal unemployment benefits or aid for state and local governments, according to The Washington Post. It instead has provisions for education, aid for small businesses, 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 twice failed to pass.
He has also argued that President Donald Trump would not sign the bipartisan bill and that only his own plan would be enacted.
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 about the bipartisan proposal also remain. Two sticking points are protections for businesses from coronavirus-related litigation, sought by Republicans, and the scale of support for state and local governments, which Democrats want to expand.
Congress is set to vote on Wednesday on a one-week extension of government funding to buy more time for COVID-19 relief negotiations. Congress aims to attach relief to an overall government spending package this month.
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