On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, the Problem Solvers Caucus and a bipartisan group of 25 Democrats and 25 Republican Senators announced a four-month bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 emergency relief framework that aims to help American students, families, small businesses, workers, and health care providers during this crisis.
This is the second COVID relief proposal that the Problem Solvers Caucus has introduced, the first being introduced on September 15. The COVID relief framework comes after months of jostling between Republican and Democratic leadership over how to address COVID-19 relief
The framework allocates $908 billion in total aid, including both new funding and the reallocation of previously appropriated CARES Act funding. The framework targets resources to the following key categories:
- State, Local, and Tribal Governments – $160 billion
- Additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) – $180 billion
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) including restaurants, stages, and deductibility – $288 billion
- CDFI/MDI Community Lender Support – $12 billion
- Transportation (Airlines, Airports, Buses, Transit and Amtrak) – $45 billion
- Vaccine Development and Distribution and Testing and Tracing – $16 billion
- Healthcare Provider Relief Fund – $35 billion
- Education Funding – $82 billion
- Student Loans – $4 billion
- Housing Assistance (Rental) – $25 billion
- Nutrition/Agriculture – $26 billion
- U.S. Postal Service – $10 billion
- Child Care – $10 billion
- Dedicated Broadband Funding – $10 billion
- Opioid Funding – $5 billion
Unlike previously proposed COVID relief that has been introduced by Republicans and Democrats, this framework is drawing support from both sides of the aisle in the Senate. “We’re getting more and more support from Republicans and Democrats,” GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, part of the group of senators from both parties proposing the $908 billion plan, said Thursday after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to explain the outline. A dozen senators have been working to flesh out a full bill, he said.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) have all stated that they open to the bill as well. Senator Grassley said that “It’s a little high for me but more important for me are the things that are in it. And if everything in it has bipartisan support … the figure might not be the biggest thing,”.
On Wednesday, December 2, Democratic leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus stimulus plan as the basis for relief talks as Congress scrambles to send aid to Americans before the end of the year. In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders endorsed a more narrow aid approach than they have previously. “While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations,” Schumer and Pelosi said.
Majority leader McConnell appeared to pan the bipartisan framework on Tuesday, repeatedly reiterating that President Trump’s support would be needed for any coronavirus deal. And speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, declined to weigh in on the bipartisan measure or the offer put forward by Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer, instead reiterating that Mr. Trump would sign Mr. McConnell’s plan.
Members of Congress are feeling the heat from their constituents to get a deal done. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who recently won reelection, said she heard “extreme frustration” from voters on the campaign trail.
Senate Republicans and Democrats have been putting pressure of party leadership to push forward with this framework. Senate Republicans presented the $908 billion compromise proposal to McConnell in his Capitol office Thursday. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of the four Senators to meet with McConnell told reporters that “The four of us had an opportunity to go and just kind of walk him through, where we were, or where we are, our discussions to date,” Murkowski said McConnell gave little indication whether he would back the centrist bill or put it on the Senate floor for a vote.
Other Republicans are privately urging McConnell to accept a larger package and to back off his demand that a bill include sweeping coronavirus-related liability protections for businesses, schools, nonprofit groups and religious organizations.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close ally of President Donald Trump, spent part of Thursday afternoon at the White House trying to convince President Trump to support the compromise $908 billion plan. He expressed optimism Thursday that Trump would back it once its details are filled in. “I have never been more hopeful that we’ll get a bill,” he said.
Pelosi and McConnell spoke Thursday for the first time since at least the 2020 election as Congress scrambles to strike a coronavirus stimulus deal and prevent a government shutdown. They discussed their “shared commitment to completing an omnibus [spending bill] and COVID relief as soon as possible,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a tweet. They have signaled they want to resolve both thorny issues by Dec. 11, the last day of government funding.
On Friday, Pelosi said that she would like to attach a potential COVID-19 relief bill to the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that would avert a government shutdown later this month. Pelosi followed that up saying that McConnell agreed with her about combining the annual spending measures with coronavirus relief during their conversation Thursday. Currently, the chances of an Omnibus package that includes funding for a stimulus package, along with a number of other items, has improved considerably. It is likely that Congress will do a short-term extension of the Continuing Resolution (CR) next week before the existing CR expires at midnight on December 11. The short-term CR might be for a week to 10 days as negotiations on an Omnibus package continue. Congress, which hoped to adjourn Sine Die on December 12, would then likely remain in session until December 19 at which time the 116th Congress will adjourn Sine Die.
Problem Solvers Bill Comparison