- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2020

Lawmakers on Thursday expressed growing optimism that Congress soon would pass a new coronavirus relief bill.

The bipartisan sponsors of a $908 billion compromise package declared growing support for the legislation, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on board and several new Senate Republicans saying they were open to the deal.

President Trump also said he was ready to sign a coronavirus stimulus package if Congress can approve one.

Members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, which worked with the senators on the legislation, celebrated the positive reception the proposal garnered and its jumpstarting of the long-stalled negotiations.

“I think time, in short order, will show that we’re in the area where we’re going to be able to land this plane,” said Problem Solvers Caucus co-chairman Rep. Tom Reed, New York Republican.

Several members of the bicameral group that rolled out the $908 billion proposal said they’re working on getting their framework ready for a vote by early next week.

Still, neither chamber has teed up a vote.

The framework would provide $160 billion for state and local governments, $288 billion for small business assistance and the Paycheck Protection Program, and short-term protections for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

There also would be funds to provide $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits through March and $16 billion for vaccine distribution. However, the package does not include a second round of $1,200 direct payments to many Americans.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, on Wednesday stepped away from the more than $2 trillion bill she had been pushing for to endorse the compromise. But she only went so far as to embrace it as a starting point for more negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, doubled down on pursuing a much more targeted approach, with a focus on a handful of popular programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and vaccine funds, and the GOP’s priority of liability protections.

And yet, he noted that “compromise is within reach.

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it is likely that the smaller Republican proposal is the legislation that will get across the finish line, despite the lack of support from Democrats.

“To be clear, I think we have a proposal out there right now that I think we can work towards,” the California Republican said.

There are other signs of optimism on Capitol Hill.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McConnell spoke on the phone Thursday to discuss completing a government funding package and a coronavirus deal before the holiday break scheduled to start at the end of next week.

Four of the senators who introduced the bipartisan proposal — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — met with Mr. McConnell to go over the finer points of the deal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham — one of a handful of new GOP senators warming up to the bipartisan proposal — endorsed the new plan and said he spoke to Mr. Trump about it. He also noted some concerns about the policy language included in the deal.

“I’ve never been more hopeful that we’ll get a bill,” Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, told reporters. “I think the president is in the mindset we need relief sooner rather than later, and that the package that’s being talked about as well in the ballpark of what he would support if he had the right policy provisions.”

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