President-Elect Joe Biden called on Congress this week to end the stalemate and pass a COVID-19 stimulus package on par with the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago.
Republicans have opposed the HEROES Act as too expensive and negotiations on a relief bill have gone nowhere since lawmakers returned to Washington after the elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintains that Congress should agree to a “highly targeted” relief bill similar to the $500 billion legislation that was blocked in the Senate earlier this year, while Democrats are holding out for a large package that includes widespread relief for state and local governments, businesses and individuals.
“Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before,” Biden said. “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who secured another two-year term as speaker from her caucus this week, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to McConnell this week requesting that negotiations on a relief package resume.
“The time to act is upon us like never before,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote McConnell. “The COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession will not end without our help. It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and delivers meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering.”
McConnell took to the Senate floor yesterday to call the HEROES Act “a multi-trillion-dollar laughingstock that never had a chance of becoming law.”
“For months, our position has been consistent,” McConnell said. “We want to reach agreement on all the areas where compromise is well within reach, send hundreds of billions of dollars to urgent and uncontroversial programs, and let Washington argue over the rest later.”