As Republicans and Democrats hold tight on their positions over a second stimulus bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Friday things in Congress will be different when President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Jan. 20.
“May I remind you that we have a president of the United States, we have a president of the United States. That is so very important,” Pelosi said at a news conference on Friday. “And whether you’re in the minority or majority, if the president is of your party, you have more power.”
However, she said, Congress should not wait until January to take action, calling the passage of a coronavirus relief bill a “red alert” issue.
“Our focus in the lame duck continues to be on COVID relief,” she said. “I urge Republicans to acknowledge the crisis and come to the table to work on COVID relief.”
Pelosi has maintained her support of the $2.4 trillion HEROES Act that was passed by the House in May, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has advocated for a smaller package with a price tag closer to $500 billion.
One of the major sticking points has been federal aid for state and local governments to help pay the salaries of police officers, health care workers, teachers and other public sector employees. Both President Donald Trump and McConnell have opposed the assistance and Democrats have refused to consider legislation without it.
McConnell, R-Ky., recently dropped his opposition to helping states and localities, but reiterated earlier this week that he has no intention of spending anywhere near the $2 trillion that House Democrats have proposed.
There has been strong bipartisan support for small business aid, extra unemployment insurance payments and a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks, but both Democrats and Republicans have added other priorities.
Democratic lawmakers have demanded more federal help for poorer families. And Republicans have insisted that businesses receive immunity against lawsuits from employees and customers who become infected with COVID-19.
House Democrats twice have passed legislation that the Senate has refused to consider. Senate Republicans tried and failed to approve two bills that included the lawsuit provision and increased taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools.
At the same time, legislators face a looming Dec. 11 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
Republicans in the Senate offered a $1.4 trillion proposal to fund the government earlier in the week, a package Democrats criticized because they said it doesn’t do enough to deal with the pandemic.
“This country is headed for a deadly winter, and it is long past time for us to provide the resources the country needs to get this virus under control and our economy back open,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate appropriations committee. “These bills do not provide any such relief.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to Twitter Thursday night, calling for a “real stimulus package” that extends beyond what has been proposed.
“The pandemic is surging, and tens of millions of Americans are facing economic devastation. The Senate needs to pass a real stimulus package NOW that provides $2,000 a month to the working class, $600 a week to the unemployed and expands Medicare to all,” the tweet said.
Businesses say they are worried about the future as coronavirus cases spike across the United States, causing states and local governments to implement new restrictions and consider lockdowns, all while a new stimulus package is on hold.
A new stimulus payment would be a big part of consumer decisions to spend more freely on gifts, something that would help the broader economy, according to a new holiday spending study by FranklinTempleton-Gallup.
Without a stimulus plan, 37% of consumers said they would probably spend less, the study said.
A separate holiday spending survey by Gallup found Americans plan to spend $150 less this year than they did in 2019.
The studies are a warning that holiday spending could be weak without a new relief bill, further hurting retail businesses that depend on discretionary spending.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at KPriceMueller@NJAdvanceMedia.com.