Schumer working with GOP to try to get deal on coronavirus aid
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he is working with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and other Republicans to try to find a way to pay for new coronavirus relief funding after it was dropped from a massive government spending bill earlier this month.
“We are trying to get COVID relief. I’m working with Senator Romney and other Republicans in good faith to find some pay-fors that are acceptable to Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. We hope to get it done,” Schumer told reporters.
Congressional leaders initially agreed to include in a massive government funding bill roughly $15 billion in response to the Biden administration‘s request for new funding for vaccines, treatments and testing. The funds would have been paid for with some of the money coming from shifting around funding allocated for state and local governments as part of previous coronavirus relief bills.
But the money was stripped out of the bill amid pushback from House Democrats from states that would have seen funds reprogrammed. The roadblock sparked fierce pushback from Biden administration officials as well as private frustration from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
What the path forward for getting coronavirus relief through both the House and Senate looks like is unclear. To get a bill through the Senate, Democrats would need help from at least 10 GOP senators.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday said that any new coronavirus-related spending in response to the administration’s request needs to come from previously approved coronavirus relief legislation.
“There’s plenty of unspent money. It’s a question of priorities,” McConnell said. “The money is there. It should be reprogrammed. That’s the way forward.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, indicated that the GOP position hadn’t changed despite an increase in cases in other countries. A new surge of COVID-19 infections in Europe has public health experts concerned the U.S. is not prepared to respond to a similar wave.
“There’s just so much money that’s just rolling around out there,” Thune said.