Several days after rejecting a bipartisan proposal to support Americans in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that he had seen “hopeful signs” that Congress would reach an agreement before the end of the year.
” Compromise is within reach,” the Kentucky Republican told the Senate. “We know where we agree. We can do this. And we must do it. So let’s actually make a bill.”
Mr. McConnell called for the immediate passage of “sensible” proposals such as reviving the Paycheck Protection Program, providing money for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines and extending state unemployment benefits. He also said that the next bill should include liability protection, which the Democrats strongly opposed.
“There is no real reason why the fate of common sense policies like the second round of the job-saving Paycheck Protection Program should be tied to the fate of marginal proposals like the economic stimulus packages for illegal immigrants,” McConnell said.
The minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, immediately pushed back against McConnell’s claim of a quick compromise.
“The Republican leader came out this morning to say that a compromise was within reach – his words – before he repeated a long list of Republican demands, blaming the Democrats for everything,” the New York Democrat said in the Senate.
McConnell’s remarks came shortly after he rejected a bipartisan proposal for a new economic aid package. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives’ Solvers Caucus revealed a $908 billion compromise. The legislation would expand state unemployment insurance, provide additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, and include $82 billion for education, $45 billion for carriers, $26 billion for nutritional support and $16 billion for coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution.
“We simply don’t have time to waste,” McConnell told reporters in response to the proposal. Instead, he presented his own $500 billion plan. A similar version of the GOP’s smaller, more targeted aid bill failed in the Senate earlier this year.
Washington Newsday turned to McConnell’s office to comment on what he intended to offer the Democrats in the compromise and his rejection of bipartisan legislation, but did not return in time for publication.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Schumer, on the other hand, cut their support calls on Wednesday and accepted the bipartisan proposal in the “spirit of compromise. The package does not contain nearly as much help as the Democrats had demanded before the election. The two versions of the aid bill previously passed in parliament cost $3 trillion and $2.2 trillion.
“Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need for action is immediate and we believe that by negotiating in good faith we could reach an agreement,” the Democratic leaders said in a statement.
It is now eight months since Congress passed its first economic aid package, the $2.2 trillion CARES bill. Calls are mounting for an agreement among legislators before they adjourn for the year on December 21.
“The solution to this impasse has long been in sight for anyone who wants to see it,” McConnell said on Thursday. “Agree where we agree. Rely on this progress. Make laws. Relieve a lot of pressure from the struggling people. And then keep debating the areas where we disagree.”