The U.S. House of Representatives’ No. 2 Democrat, Steny Hoyer, suggested on Sunday his party might be willing to accept a coronavirus relief deal without the state and local aid that Democrats have been insisting should be part of it.
Democrats “are not going to get everything we want. We think state and local (aid) is important. And if we can get that, we want to get it. But we want to get aid out to the people who are really, really struggling and are at grave risk,” Hoyer, the House majority leader, told CNN.
Congressional negotiators have been trying for months to reach agreement on a new coronavirus aid bill, after Congress approved $3 trillion in relief earlier this year.
Leading lawmakers would like to attach the COVID-19 aid package to a massive bill funding the government that needs to be done by Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, suggested last week scrapping aid to state and local governments – a Democratic priority that many Republicans oppose – as well as liability protections for business – a Republican priority opposed by many Democrats – in order to break the stalemate.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer rejected that idea last week, saying that dropping new aid to state and local governments would put at risk the jobs of police, firefighters and other frontline public workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was no immediate comment from Pelosi’s or Schumer’s office on Sunday.
Hoyer told CNN the new coronavirus relief package should include money for vaccine distribution, as well as for the unemployed and small businesses.
Such proposals are part of a $908 billion aid plan by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate. One of the sponsors of the plan, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, said on Sunday it would be introduced formally on Monday.
“The plan is alive and well and there’s no way, no way that we are going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people,” Manchin told Fox News.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney)