Chances of COVID Relief Bill Grow Bleaker With Dems' Demand

Chances of an economic stimulus/recovery bill appeared to grow bleaker Thursday with reports of Democratic congressional leaders reiterating their demand for at least a $2 trillion package of benefits with others saying they were seeking their original $3.4 trillion.

Politico reported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California insisted on a $2 trillion bill to blunt the impact of restrictions caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. CNBC reported the number at $2.2 trillion and said it was a $3.4 trillion bill the Democratic House passed in May.

The stance appeared to widen the gap with Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Monday that news of Pfizer’s report of a COVID-19 vaccine being 90% effective supported his call for a ‘‘targeted’’ bill.

House Democrats in May passed a $3.4 trillion ‘‘HEROES’’ Act, a bill designed to replace some of the measures that eventually expired, such as payroll protection plan, enhanced unemployment compensation, among other things, but also adding items such as payments to local and state governments.

The White House and Republicans balked, particularly at the payments to local and state governments, initially offering a $1 trillion package. The two sides have gone back-and-forth since, with the House Democrats approving a $2.2 trillion package in October and the White House reportedly countering with as much as $1.8 trillion. McConnell remained steadfast and even suggested a $500 billion package.

“The HEROES Act should be the starting point, not an emaciated bill that prioritizes protections for corporations and considers the needs of American families as an afterthought,’’ Schumer said during a appearance with Pelosi on Thursday.

“The HEROES Act, passed in the House, does meet this moment. It doesn’t pick and choose who we’re going to help during the greatest health and economic crisis in decades.’’

McConnell responded by telling reporters that the Senate will not even consider their $2 trillion demand, again suggesting his $500 billion package.

“I gather (Pelosi) and the Democratic leader in the Senate still are looking at something dramatically larger,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s not a place I think we’re willing to go.

“But I do think there needs to be another package. Hopefully we can get past the impasse we’ve had now for four or five months and get serious.’’

Democrats appeared to have gained one new seat in the Senate while losing at least six in the House in the new Congress that will take office in January.

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