McConnell on pandemic relief: Let's agree to stimulus but avoid the 2 big sticking points

Denitsa Tsekova
·Reporter
·3 min read

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested on Tuesday that Congressional negotiators temporarily drop the two most contentious stimulus provisions so that Democrats and Republicans can agree on new pandemic stimulus legislation before the year’s end.

“What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local and pass those things that we can agree on,” McConnell told reporters. “We'll be back at this after the first of the year.”

Democrats have repeatedly called for aid for state and local governments to be included in any new deal, a sticking point for Republicans with McConnell calling it a “blue state bailout.”

“The state and local funding provided by the state and local funding provisions have broad bipartisan support,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in response to McConnell’s comments. “Unlike the extreme corporate liability proposal.”

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 3: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor in the Capitol on Thursday, December 3, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor in the Capitol on Thursday, December 3, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republicans, led by McConnell, have repeatedly called for giving companies liability protections from coronavirus-related claims from workers either until as far as the end of 2024. Some Democrats called this a “poison pill” of any proposed legislation.

“It is an intriguing offer that the Democrats will need to consider carefully,” Mark Harkins, a former Democratic congressional staffer and a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute told Yahoo Money. “With the liability protection left behind, that means there will be momentum on the Republican side for another package in early 2021.”

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‘We can't leave without doing a COVID bill’

The most recent proposal to gain traction is the $908 billion bipartisan proposal unveiled last week which includes $160 billion in aid to state and local governments as well as limited liability provisions. McConnell suggested that parts of that stimulus plan — while avoiding the sticking points — would be included in legislation needed in the next two weeks to avert a partial government shutdown.

“We can't leave without doing a COVID bill. The country needs it,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “We've got two weeks of important business left to do, and that's where I'm going to concentrate my time.”

Up to 12 million Americans are expected to lose unemployment benefits coverage when two programs enacted under the CARES Act, the massive pandemic stimulus legislation passed in March, expire on December 26. The federal eviction moratorium, paid sick leave, aid to state and local governments, among other relief, also will lapse.

Read more: How to file for unemployment insurance

Both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs are set to expire on December 26 unless Congress reaches a stimulus deal.
Both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs are set to expire on December 26 unless Congress reaches a stimulus deal.

By backing the $908 billion proposal, Democrats compromised on some of the provisions included in the latest version of the HEROES Act, which passed in the Democratic-controlled House on October 1 but was never taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.

The $2.2 trillion HEROES Act included another round of $1200 stimulus checks for Americans and $600 in weekly additional unemployment benefits, both of which are unlikely to make it in any final legislation being discussed in the current negotiations.

“The best way forward is the [negotiators] making good progress in a bipartisan way,” Schumer said, adding that McConnell's "refusal to be part of negotiations in a bipartisan way and now an attempt to sabotage the bipartisan efforts... is the wrong way to go.”

Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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