Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has agreed to resume negotiations with Democrats to unlock a bill of economic aid for the COVID-19 pandemic, amid a rebound in cases across the country, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, announced Thursday.
“Last night, they agreed to come to the negotiating table and the advisers will meet today or tomorrow to start to see if we can get a really good COVID-19 relief law,” said Schumer, minority leader at the Senate, during a press conference in New York.
“So there has been a bit of progress, which is reflected in the fact that the people at McConnell have finally sat down to talk to us,” he added.
However, Democratic and Republican advisers have told NBC News, sister network of Noticias Telemundo, that Schumer may have overstated the progress, given that both parties are starting negotiations to keep the government funded and avoid having to close on December 11 due to lack of funds.
Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. McConnell’s office also did not immediately respond.
Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans were already stalled before Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over the president, Republican Donald Trump, for lack of agreement on the total cost of the financial aid package and details related to the programs that should be funded.
In fact, Trump himself disagreed with McConnell and the Republican majority in the Senate: the president preferred an ambitious aid package, along the lines of the Democrats, while senators insisted on voting (and twice lost the vote despite a majority) a plan of lesser value and that did not include a check for 1,200 dollars for families.
Hopes that this lockdown would change after November 3 were dashed by the electoral results themselves, which have not caused one of the two sides to give in and the negotiation to advance. The Democrats have maintained control of the House of Representatives, while the Senate will be decided in January, although there is a good chance that it will remain majority Republican.
It has been months since Congress passed a financial relief law to combat the coronavirus-inflicted recession, which included the first $ 1,200 relief check.
The Senate suspended the session on Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday with little evidence that the two sides were any closer to reaching an agreement.
The inaction of Congress has left millions of Americans in an economically precarious position.
Without an extension of the CARES law, passed in March, About 12 million Americans are expected to lose unemployment benefits by the end of December. A federal moratorium on evictions established as a result of the crisis will also expire at the end of the year.
Meetings between Republican and Democratic staff members would be a first step in what could be a lengthy process. Democrats have proposed a package of al minus $ 2.2 trillionwhile McConnell has indicated that he will not support legislation that exceeds the $ 500 billion.
In May, lower house Democrats approved a $ 3 trillion package that would have provided more direct payments to people and extended federal unemployment assistance to $ 600 per week. Instead, McConnell has said that he believes relief legislation should have a “limited purpose.” The Senate therefore rejected the Democratic plan.
The prospect of renewed negotiations occurs in the context of an increase in new cases of coronavirus in practically all the states of the country.
More than 250,000 people have died from Covid-19 since it emerged late last year in the United States. Promising vaccine data released this month has raised hopes of containing the virus, although such an achievement is not expected to become apparent until well into 2021 at the earliest.
As the pandemic continues to spread, Trump has focused on challenging the results of the presidential election. On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told CNN that the president had not attended a meeting of the coronavirus task force for months.
Biden has shown his support for the Democrats’ proposals for a stimulus package.
“To the millions of Americans who have lost work hours and wages or lost their jobs altogether, we can bring immediate relief and it must be done quickly,” Biden said Monday. “Congress should come together and approve an aid package from Covid,” he added.
Biden is expected to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., And Schumer in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday, Pelosi’s aides and Biden’s transition team told NBC News.