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Biden Calls Forthcoming COVID Relief Bill a 'Down Payment'

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President-elect Joe Biden says the ongoing negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill are “encouraging,” but added that he believes Congress will likely need to pass another bill in early-2021.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Biden said, “The stimulus package is encouraging. It looks like they are very, very close, and it looks like there’s going to be direct cash payments.”

“But it’s a down payment, an important down payment on what’s going to have to be done beginning the end of January into February, but it’s very important it gets done,” he continued.

He added, “I compliment the bipartisan group on working together to get it done.”

His comments come as lawmakers are reportedly considering adding direct payments to Americans worth between $600 and $700. 

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The Washington Post reports that the bill is expected to come with a $900 billion price tag that would include billions of dollars in aid for small businesses, unemployed Americans, vaccine distribution, and schools.

Negotiations on a new relief bill ran into a speed bump as Democrats were pushing for funding for state and local governments, while Republicans were pushing for liability protections for businesses. 

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that lawmakers are “going to stay here until we get a COVID package.”

He reiterated his belief that Congress should pass a stripped-down relief bill that does not include provisions for liability protection or funding for state and local governments. 

On Dec. 8, McConnell floated the idea as he said, “What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we can agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

He added, “Why don’t we set aside the two obviously most contentious issues?”

However, at the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed that proposal as “appalling.” And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused the Kentucky senator of “sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations.”

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