House

Pelosi blasts McConnell suggestion to pare down COVID-19 relief bill: ‘Appalling’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday shot down a suggestion from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to leave coronavirus-related liability protection and funding for state and local governments out of the next COVID-19 relief bill.

Pelosi rejected the idea hours after McConnell said that Congress should limit the legislation to provisions that already have bipartisan agreement, like funds for vaccine distribution and small-business loans, and move on from the sticking points that have bedeviled negotiations for months.

But Pelosi, who has pushed hard for state and local government funding, argued that such funding is necessary for vaccine distribution and avoiding layoffs of public workers. She accused McConnell of undermining the talks.

“Leader McConnell’s efforts to undermine good-faith, bipartisan negotiations are appalling,” Pelosi said in a statement. “What does Leader McConnell have against our heroes? Our health care workers, our first responders and other frontline workers have risked their lives to save lives. Now, Leader McConnell wants them to lose their jobs and our constituents to lose the essential services they provide.”

“With vaccine distribution being administered by the states, state and local funding is central to our efforts to crush the virus,” Pelosi added.

Republicans have questioned whether more funding is necessary for state and local governments — a major part of the long-running impasse — while McConnell has long pushed for coronavirus-related liability protections for businesses.

However, McConnell suggested this week that Congress pass a limited measure now and consider additional relief later, after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Lawmakers are under pressure to pass a coronavirus relief measure before departing Washington for the end of the year as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are spiking nationally. Unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium programs established earlier this year are also set to expire at the end of this month absent congressional action.

“It remains my view that we ought to pass what we can agree on,” McConnell said Tuesday. “We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package. What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local and pass those things we can agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this at the first of the year.”

A group of Republican and Democratic senators has been meeting to try to figure out a path forward on a relief package. The bipartisan group’s initial framework would provide $160 billion for state and local governments, compared to the most recent bill passed by House Democrats in October that would provide $436 billion.

Sen. Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told reporters on Tuesday that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on a liability protection proposal “that we hope will equally dissatisfy both sides but get us to a place where we can pass the bill, because the American people need this bill.”

Tags Angus King businesses covid-19 liability provision Coronavirus coronavirus lawsuits coronavirus relief coronavirus relief talks covid-19 relief bill Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi

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