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Speaker Pelosi says there is 'momentum' to reach Covid relief deal

The Democrat is hopeful that aid could be passed as part of the government funding bill, leaving just days for lawmakers to come to an agreement.
Image: Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of Calif., speaks during her weekly briefing, on Dec. 4, 2020, on Capitol Hill.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that there is "momentum" on Capitol Hill to reach a deal on coronavirus relief, further optimism that legislation could be approved before the end of the year.

"There is momentum," Pelosi told reporters. "I am pleased that the tone of our conversation is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done."

The deal would provide for augmented unemployment payments through March but would not send another round of checks to the nation.

Pelosi said she spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday about attaching the Covid-19 relief to the government funding bill, which needs to be passed by Dec. 11 to avoid a shutdown. That means lawmakers negotiating another round of aid are working on a tight deadline after months of deadlocked negotiations.

When pressed on whether Democrats and Republicans could realistically come to an agreement by next week as some lingering policy disputes remain, Pelosi insisted that the truncated timeline is not an obstacle, telling reporters "we have the time to do it."

"It doesn’t matter. We will take the time that we need," she said.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voiced their support for a $908 billion bipartisan proposal presented by members of the Senate and House on Tuesday.

Negotiations hit an impasse earlier this year as Democrats pushed for $2.2 trillion in aid while McConnell sought a smaller package of $550 billion. In addition to the price tag, Republicans and Democrats disagreed over including liability protections for business that open during the pandemic as well as funding for state and local governments.

The bipartisan proposal, which Pelosi described as a "framework" for the ongoing negotiations, includes state and local funding and liability protections, as well as more unemployment aid and support for small businesses. It does not include another round of direct stimulus payments.

The bipartisan proposal is a smaller package than what Democrats hoped, raising some questions as to why Pelosi waited so long to agree to a smaller proposal after insisting for months that she was uninterested in a watered-down deal.

"It was not a mistake," Pelosi said, calling the election of Joe Biden a "game change" and expressing hope that more aid could be delivered under his administration.

"It's less money, but over a shorter period of time. And we need to do it to save lives and livelihoods with the hope that much more help is on the way."

Pelosi's comments come as the November jobs report released on Friday showed the slowest month of growth since the recovery began, with economy adding fewer jobs than many economist had predicted.

"We had some not to good news on the jobs front that further necessitates our taking action to crush the virus," Pelosi said.