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Negotiations on another round of coronavirus relief stalled before the election. Now congressional leaders in both parties are taking steps to revive talks before year-end.
President-elect Joe Biden is working with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to push for passage of another emergency coronavirus relief package before Congress adjourns for the year, as Republicans hosted talks of their own on a possible deal.
Biden met Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to discuss prospects of an aid deal during the lame duck session, said Biden transition aide Jen Psaki.
“They’re in lockstep agreement that there needs to be emergency assistance and aid during the lame-duck session to help families, to help small businesses,” Psaki said. “There’s no more room for delay, and we need to move forward as quickly as possible.”
Democrats and Republicans in Congress were unable to reach agreement on a Covid-19 relief bill ahead of the election, and prospects for approval of any additional aid this year remain uncertain. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief proposal earlier this year, but Republicans have sought a smaller, more targeted package.
The Trump administration signaled this week that the administration may be open to working on another proposal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has spearheaded the administration’s negotiations with Democrats in the House, met Friday with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to brainstorm ideas for a more-targeted relief deal.
On Friday, McConnell proposed that Congress repurpose $455 billion of unspent CARES Act funding toward new legislation.
“Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important, and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months,” McConnell said in a statement.
After the election, the Senate majority leader had said passing another coronavirus stimulus package before the end of the year would be his top priority.
Meanwhile, McCarthy on Friday sent a letter to 23 centrist House Democrats who had threatened to back a procedural measure designed to force floor action on legislation extending the Paycheck Protection Program, which has funneled money to small businesses to help them keep paying their workers during the virus crisis.
Biden’s meeting with congressional leaders came the same day as he addressed thousands of city leaders from across the country, promising local government officials they would have a seat at the table when he is sworn into office.
During an address to a National League of Cities conference, Biden thanked city leaders for continuing to provide essential services to residents even as they faced financial difficulties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Covid is straining your healthcare systems, burning out your healthcare providers. Essential workers are putting their lives and their health at risk to keep your communities running but you are not getting the support you need to be able to keep paying your teachers, police officers, firefighters, first responders,” Biden said. “Yet in the face of these challenges, you’ve all stepped up.”
Biden has promised to work with state and local government leaders to coordinate a nationwide response to the pandemic.
Psaki said Biden is talking with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about coronavirus relief, but declined to name any Republican lawmakers he’s been in touch with so far.
Biden has stressed that he will work in a bipartisan manner with leaders from all levels of government.
“There are no red cities or blue cities, there are only American cities, American states,” Biden told attendees at the NLC gathering. “We are committed to being real partners with you so we can coordinate a real nationwide response to this crisis.”
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.