House Democratic leader suggests path forward on coronavirus relief package
A House Democratic leader suggested Sunday that the party may be willing to support a coronavirus relief package without aid to state and local governments, potentially ceding a Democratic priority in pursuit of a bipartisan deal.
“In the legislative process, nobody ever gets everything they want,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN’s Abby Phillip on “Inside Politics.” “And, in fact, when you have a divided government and divided Congress, it’s critically important that we deal with these very, very important objectives even if we don’t get, on either side, everything we want.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week proposed dropping liability shields for companies and state and local aid from coronavirus relief talks. The policies, top priorities for Republicans and Democrats, respectively, have been two of the thorniest issues in the months-long negotiations between parties on an elusive economic relief bill for Americans and small businesses.
House and Senate leaders are trying to finalize a package before Congress leaves for the holidays — particularly with 12 million Americans set to lose unemployment benefits in coming weeks. No coronavirus relief legislation has been enacted since the spring.
Hoyer conceded that while Democrats believe state and local aid is “critically important,” other policies are “critically important, too.”
“If we can get that, we want to get it, but we want to get aid out to the people who are really, really struggling and are at great risk,” Hoyer said. “Life is a series of trade-offs and gives and takes, but we need to make sure that we get the very important health, unemployment, small business, vaccine delivery dollars, school dollars, child care dollars, all of which are in the agreement that has forged — the bipartisan agreement forged by the senators, and by the Problem Solvers in our own House, and by members in both the House and the Senate.”
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said a group of bipartisan negotiators will introduce their $908 billion bill Monday. Manchin framed the proposal as an emergency measure that would help the nation survive the first quarter of 2021, a three-month stretch he predicted would be the “toughest” first quarter the U.S. will have ever faced.
The West Virginia Democrat noted that the bipartisan group of lawmakers and their staffs have been meeting regularly for the last month, including a call Saturday and an upcoming call later Sunday to “finish things up.”
“The bottom line is there’s a lot of parts to this bill, and in the spirit of compromise, you have to work through all of that,” Manchin told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “But at the end, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Cassidy called the soon-to-be-released legislation “the only bipartisan game in town,” echoing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s reference Thursday to these talks being “the only real game in town.”
“We’re the only one where people have come together from both parties and said, ‘Listen, I’m not with you on that, but if you give me this, I’ll give you that because we’ve gotta do something for the American people,’” Cassidy told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He acknowledged, however, that “what Leader McConnell decides to do, I don’t have control over,” and “others can decide to accept our work product or not.”
Manchin similarly said that after the bill’s text is released, his congressional colleagues “can choose if you like it or not” and “vote for it or against it.” And he lamented the possibility of lawmakers taking “the easy way out” by dropping the most contentious issues — liability protections and state and local assistance — to avoid “a tough vote.”
“We’ve done what this place is supposed to do,” Manchin said, referring to the bipartisan negotiators. “We’ve worked together. We didn’t work apart and condemn each other and point fingers.”
But will their measure pass later this week, when Congress faces a government funding deadline?
“There’s no guarantee,” Manchin said, noting that Congress consists of 535 voting members. “I can’t guarantee they’re all going to vote for it and pass it, but I can tell you one thing: What’s the alternative? What are you going to do?”