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Politics & Policy

Senate Leaves Washington for Holiday Without Reaching Deal on COVID Relief Legislation

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) departs a Senate republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 10, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The Senate recessed for Thanksgiving on Wednesday without reaching a deal on COVID relief legislation and will not return until November 30, leaving little hope that an agreement will be reached any time soon as coronavirus cases soar nationwide and states consider reimposing more stringent lockdowns.

Democrats and Republicans have been in a political stalemate over a second round of coronavirus relief legislation for months. While the Democrat-controlled House first passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act in May, and later a downsized version at $2.2 trillion last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a number of Republicans have instead pushed for a smaller, more focused $500 billion bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to McConnell on Tuesday urging him to resume negotiations.

“Earlier this year during negotiations with Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows, we agreed to compromise on a relief package and lowered our request by $1.2 trillion,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote. “Since that time, you have lowered your proposal from $1 trillion to $500 billion, despite the consensus from economists and experts that the country requires a much larger injection of aid.”

McConnell pushed back in a tweet on Tuesday, saying, “Republicans have tried for weeks to pass another targeted rescue package.”

“It would send hundreds of billions of dollars to schools, unemployment aid, another round of the job-saving PPP, and healthcare.   Democrats repeatedly blocked it all,” he wrote. “Let’s hope they let us make law soon.”

While the Democrats’ bill includes a second stimulus check of as much as $1,200 per person and would renew enhanced unemployment benefits, McConnell has said positive jobs and vaccine data are evidence that Congress should instead pass a smaller bill.

According to Politico, as negotiations have stalled, it is unlikely such a bill will be passed before Christmas, and unclear if new legislation will be passed before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Before the election, the White House had proposed a $1.9 trillion bill, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed as insufficient.

“It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and deliver meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote to McConnell. “For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America’s needs in this critical time.”

Biden, who has a stimulus plan with a second stimulus check that he can’t act on until after his inauguration, on Monday called on both sides to work together to reach a deal.

“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make,” he said. “If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”

“We’re going into a very dark winter,” Biden said. “Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier.”

The United States on Wednesday surpassed more than 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus, reaching a devastating milestone one day after reaching its highest daily death toll in more than six months. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, 47 states had at least ten percent more new daily cases than this time last week.

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