Politics

“Encouraging signs” that Mitch McConnell will make deal on pandemic relief, Senator Manchin says

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump have “given encouraging signs” toward another coronavirus stimulus bill, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said.

The Democrat is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have been working on passing a deal before the new year, when CARES Act benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans, many of whom are still struggling from job losses or face eviction as the pandemic wears on.

McConnell has said a bipartisan deal can be done, and Democrats are prepared to make a deal, Manchin said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” “We just can’t fail. There’s too much at stake here. People are running out of their lifelines, which end and are eliminated at the end of December…food assistance, shelter, the basic necessities of life are something that we have to continue to help people.” 

He said the group will begin rolling out sections of the bill Tuesday afternoon, and 90% of it will be public by the end of the day.

“If you look at everything that is going to be eliminated as of December 31, that’s where your priorities must be for an emergency relief package. That’s what we’ve done,” Manchin said.

House and Senate leaders are considering the $908 billion spending package to help small businesses, unemployed workers and state and local governments. A larger stopgap measure aimed at keeping the federal government running another week until December 18 is set for a House vote Wednesday.

Asked about the looming Christmas break, Manchin urged lawmakers to place priority on passing a bill.

“I don’t know how any senator could go home or any congressperson could return home not making every effort. How can you look at people that’ll be displaced or be evicted or in hunger lines? People that you’ve never seen in long lines for food assistance… I don’t know how you can go home and say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, we had to come home for Christmas vacation,'” he said.

While McConnell spoke in favor of a narrower proposal, Democratic leaders have called for the bill to be used as a framework for pandemic relief, until President-elect Joe Biden takes the White House in January. 

“We had a hard time having our Republicans move off the $500 billion, and we’ve had a hard time for Democrats to come down below $1.2 [trillion],” said Manchin. “Joe Biden said this is a down payment. Our president, Joe Biden coming in, he’ll come back and lay out a new plan of what he thinks it takes to have this economy recover and stay on course.”

Mr. Biden was optimistic about a deal being passed under the Trump administration during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, last week, though he stressed a short-term measure “is not the end of the deal.”

Manchin warned the first quarter of the Biden administration would be “the most challenging we’ve ever faced,” but said the promise of new funding and expected vaccine rollouts would soon lift Americans’ spirits.

While negotiations are still ongoing, the West Virginia Democrat said he was proud of the bipartisan effort and said both Democrats and Republicans were working to learn from what “could have been done better the first time” with shortcomings in the CARES Act.

“For the last three weeks we’ve been hooked to the hip, probably 4-6 hours a day back-and-forth on Zooms — it’s encouraging, and it’s bicameral too,” he said.

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