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On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser

On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser
© Greg Nash

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THE BIG DEAL—COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol on Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data MORE (R-Ky.) held talks on Thursday about reaching a COVID-19 relief deal before Christmas, with both expressing a desire to quickly pass legislation, according to a senior aide to Pelosi.

“The Speaker and Leader McConnell spoke at 12:45 p.m. today by phone about their shared commitment to completing an omnibus and COVID relief as soon as possible,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said Thursday afternoon.

Fresh momentum: 

  • Earlier in the day, Pelosi told reporters “we will have an agreement” on coronavirus package funding by Dec. 11, the date government funding is set to expire.
  • McConnell told reporters Tuesday that additional COVID-19 relief funding would likely be added to the expected $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that would fund the federal government beyond Dec. 11 through fiscal 2021, which ends on Sept. 30.
  • Shortly before that conversation, McConnell met with a group of Senate Republican moderates who support a compromise $908 billion coronavirus relief bill that would include $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, a sticking point for many conservatives, including McConnell.

McConnell on Thursday morning said on the Senate floor “compromise is within reach.”

“We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again. We can do this. And we need to do this,” he said.

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The Hill’s Alexander Bolton brings us up to speed here.

The revival of coronavirus relief talks comes as the U.S. economy faces serious risks of falling into another recession. We’ve got more on that below.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession: A weakening labor market is raising fears of a double-dip recession heading into the winter.

  • New figures on Wednesday showed job growth in the private sector last month fell to its slowest pace since July as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths hit record highs.
  • The Labor Department’s release of the November jobs report on Friday will provide the broadest view of just how much the U.S. workforce has weakened eight months into the pandemic. 
  • While U.S. employers are expected to have added roughly 400,000 jobs last month, economists fear that the progress made since April could slip into reverse without more help from the White House and lawmakers.

Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., warned that a failure to bridge the gap between the coronavirus-ridden economy and the imminent promise of a post-pandemic future could deepen a cycle of layoffs, declines in consumer demand and business closures.

“We’ll still add half a million jobs or so [in November]. But that still leaves a pretty big hole from earlier this year, and the pace of recovery is kind of stagnated,” he said.

I explain why here.

Read more: Weekly jobless claims dip to 712,000 in last week of November

 

Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser: President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE on Thursday officially tapped former Obama administration official Brian Deese to lead the National Economic Council, his latest announcement to round out his economic team.

  • Deese, who was widely expected to get the role, formerly served as the deputy director of the council and as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • He was a key player in negotiations for the auto industry bailout during the Obama administration and aided in talks to join the Paris climate accord.

"Brian is among the most tested and accomplished public servants in the country — a trusted voice I can count on to help us end the ongoing economic crisis, build a better economy that deals everybody in, and take on the existential threat of climate change in a way that creates good-paying American jobs," Biden said in a statement.

Here’s more from The Hill’s Brett Samuels.

 

GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers: Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Md.) on Thursday attempted to get the Senate to immediately pass his bill to make President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE’s payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers and military members, but Republicans blocked the effort.

  • Van Hollen’s bill would allow the payroll tax deferral to be optional for employees of any employer that chooses to participate in the deferral, including the federal government. 
  • Most businesses have not been deferring their workers’ payroll taxes, but the deferral has been mandatory for civilian employees at federal agencies and members of the armed forces.

Van Hollen argued on the Senate floor that his bill is a matter of “fundamental fairness,” and that passing the measure would limit the amount of deferred taxes that federal workers and military members would have to pay early next year. But Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Company officially nixes Keystone XL pipeline OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE (R-Mont.), objected to Van Hollen’s request for the Senate to unanimously pass the bill, arguing that Congress should instead forgive the deferred payroll taxes.

The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda explains here.

 

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GOOD TO KNOW

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against Google Wednesday alleging that the company illegally spied on and then fired two employees for organizing.
  • UPS has reportedly told drivers across the country to stop picking up packages from six retailers, including Gap, Nike and Macy’s, as the shipping company attempts to keep up with a record-breaking online shopping season amid the coronavirus pandemic.