Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Joe Manchin at a news conference on Capitol Hill last Tuesday. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Some of the senators working on a $908 billion coronavirus relief plan say their bipartisan proposal could be finalized early this week.
GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy told Fox News that President Donald Trump had “indicated” he would support it, and he expressed optimism that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would too.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, told CNN the final wording of the plan could be ready as early as Monday.
Both Republican and Democratic senators have started to line up behind the package, with Warner saying he thinks it has the numbers to pass.
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Senators are inching closer to an agreement on the final wording of a bipartisan $908 billion coronavirus relief plan, with some expressing confidence that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump would back it.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who is part of the 10-person cross-party group crafting the plan, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the wording could be finalized as early as Monday.
“I think we have got the top-line numbers done,” he said. “We are working right now on language so that we can have – as early as tomorrow – a piece of legislation.”
He added that he had “pretty high assurance” the final proposal would have enough votes to pass the Senate.
The $908 billion package appears to have the most bipartisan support of the multiple proposed options for federal spending to address the coronavirus pandemic. Leading Democratic figures such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have embraced it, as have some Republicans.
Read more: The $908 billion coronavirus stimulus deal could be the next one Congress passes: Here’s what’s in the relief package and what you could get
Though McConnell has called for bipartisanship in stimulus negotiations, he is sticking to his own package, which is based on a much smaller bill that has twice failed to pass this fall.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator in the bipartisan group behind the package, expressed optimism that support from figures like McConnell and Trump would be forthcoming.
He told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump had signaled willingness. “President Trump has indicated that he would sign a $908 billion package,” he said. “There’s only one $908 billion package out there – that’s ours.”
Cassidy added that he was “optimistic” about McConnell’s support.
Cassidy did not say where he had learned of Trump’s indication of support. At a Thursday press conference, the president had said he would support a bill, but when asked for clarification the White House said he had meant a much slimmer one promoted by McConnell.
“Now, neither have said: ‘Oh, we’ll sign your bill,'” Cassidy told Fox News.
“That’s fair, we have final language” to agree on, he said, adding that the urgency of the situation would be clear to Trump and McConnell.
That wording is likely to come out “early this week,” Cassidy said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump seen after the State of the Union address on February 4. Mario Tama/Getty Images
Two main points remain a source of disagreement in the negotiations, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.
According to the outlet, the first is liability protections for businesses in the pandemic, which the GOP supports. The second is funding demanded by the Democratic Party for state and local governments.
Both measures were included in some form in a draft that circulated last week. It also included a $288 billion small-business-loan program, $180 billion added to unemployment insurance, and $16 billion for distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
The bipartisan package does not include $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
Numerous members of Congress have noted the pressure in the situation, as they rush to agree a separate spending plan by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
“We don’t have a choice now. It’s one of those things that has to be done,” CNN reported Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin telling NBC.
Meanwhile, the country’s pandemic continues to worsen, with 1 million cases added in a single five-day period last week.
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