Dems vow Friday vote on coronavirus stimulus
House Democratic leaders are pushing forward with a plan to vote Friday on sweeping legislation to provide financial help to victims of the fast-moving coronavirus.
Emerging from a leadership meeting in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democrats said they haven’t yet clinched a deal with GOP leaders, but the outstanding disagreements are so few that they’re promising a vote on the package later in the day.
“It is largely done,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “We intend to move ahead today.”
Pelosi has been leading the talks for the Democrats, negotiating furiously with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for much of the week in search of a bipartisan compromise that can clear both chambers and be signed into law.
The pair spoke most recently Friday morning by phone, according to aides and lawmakers, and Pelosi said the sides are “close” to an agreement.
Democrats said they’ve sent their latest offer to GOP leaders, who were meeting Friday morning to discuss the draft in the office of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Hoyer said Democrats have given the Republicans one of their central requests, removing language that would have essentially created a permanent paid leave program providing benefits in the event of future public health emergencies. The compromise bill will sunset that benefit when the coronavirus crisis has passed.
Another sticking point relates to abortion services. Republicans have demanded the inclusion of language, known as the Hyde Amendment, explicitly prohibiting the use of federal funds to provide those services. One aide said Democrats have conceded to that request, and the language will be included, though Democratic lawmakers declined to comment before the deal is sealed.
If such a deal is struck, Democrats are hoping to fast-track the legislation on the House floor through a procedural maneuver that sidesteps the need to adopt a rule governing the debate.
In any event, Democrats made crystal clear that they’re bringing the package to the floor on Friday, both as a response to the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus and as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that Congress is on the job.
“We think right now providing some confidence and stabilization is our paramount issue, and that’s why the intention is clear: We’re going with this this morning,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), a key negotiator, as he emerged from Pelosi’s office.
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