Pelosi calls meeting with congressional leaders to discuss COVID relief

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Washington – House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with other congressional leaders on Tuesday afternoon to discuss finalizing a government spending measure and coronavirus relief bill, so the window should close quickly for Congress to take action before government funding expires on Friday and critical relief programs expire at the end of the month.
Pelosi met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in his office. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also joined the meeting by telephone. Mnuchin and Pelosi have been engaged in negotiations for several months.

Schumer then told reporters that “it was a good meeting.” McCarthy also said there had been “progress”.

“We continue to work. I think there is progress. We will pull ourselves together, ”McCarthy told reporters. The leaders will meet at 7:30 p.m.

Pelosi said on his way to the meeting that lawmakers “must agree” to reach a deal by Friday.

“We have to come to an agreement. And we hope it happens in a way that keeps government open. I know we will finish our work in the House, ”Pelosi told reporters.

The meeting comes after a group of bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers on Monday presented two bills on coronavirus relief worth $ 908 billion. Pelosi and Schumer have previously called for the framework proposed by this group to be the basis for any negotiations.

The first bill totals $ 748 billion and includes additional funding for the popular paycheck protection program, schools and unemployment insurance, as well as more money for vaccine development and distribution, coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The second measure, worth $ 160 billion, addresses two sticking points that have blocked the negotiations: state and local government funding, which is essential for Democrats, and accountability shields for business and institutions, which is a priority for McConnell.

But McConnell said on Tuesday he was prepared to put aside liability guarantees and focus on the first bill, if Democrats are also prepared to forgo forwarding anything on state and local aid.

“We have to agree on what we can agree on,” McConnell said.

The meeting between House and Senate leaders on Tuesday indicates that lawmakers may be ready to compromise after months of disagreement. Pelosi and McConnell also said they would like to pass a new omnibus measure to fund the government for a year instead of a continuing resolution that would extend current funding for a limited period. Congress passed a standing resolution last week to extend the government funding deadline to December 18.

Both houses must vote on the legislation and then it must be signed by President Trump at midnight Friday to avoid a shutdown.

One issue that remains unresolved is whether to include direct payments to Americans in a government funding bill or a coronavirus relief proposal. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Josh Hawley have threatened to let government funding expire unless Congress votes to include direct checks. A group of Progressive Democrats in the House also sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday calling for direct payments to be included in the relief bill.

Kimberly Brown contributed to this report.

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