U.S. Senate Leader McConnell Urges New COVID-19 Aid in Broad Funding Bill

The U.S. Congress should include a fresh wave of coronavirus stimulus in a must-pass $1.4 trillion spending bill aimed at heading off a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday, Reuters writes.

After a months-long standoff between Republicans and Democrats that persisted as COVID-19 infections and deaths soared, lawmakers put forth a flurry of proposals in an attempt to pass something this month.

Both McConnell and President-elect Joe Biden separately spoke of passing a coronavirus aid bill quickly and debating an additional bill early next year to address the worst U.S. health crisis in living memory.

But difficult talks over details remained with little time to spare, as Congress rushes to pass a $1.4 trillion bill by Dec. 11 to keep government agencies funded. Without action, a range of government programs would be interrupted and many federal workers would be furloughed.

McConnell said he would like to marry the funding bill with a coronavirus aid measure.

“We need a targeted relief bill” now, McConnell told reporters after meeting with his fellow Republican senators. For months he has been pushing a $500 billion approach that Democrats rejected as insufficient.

McConnell also said that he consulted with the White House and was circulating to Republican senators the outline of a bill that President Donald Trump would accept. McConnell did not provide details.

McConnell’s outline is very close to the legislation that the Senate leader has been touting for months and was rejected by Democrats, according to one Senate Republican source. The plan includes $332.7 billion in new loans or grants to small businesses, according to a document provided to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered to McConnell new ideas for reaching a compromise. Schumer refused to provide details during a press conference.

Schumer called it “a private proposal to help us move the ball forward,” as he accused McConnell of maneuvering to bring a partisan, Republican bill up for a vote instead of incorporating Democratic ideas. Previously, Schumer and Pelosi sought a $2.2 trillion bill that McConnell rejected.

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