- A number of Democrats have signaled they may drop demands for state and local government aid in a forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus bill, according to multiple reports.
- The Associated Press reported that Dick Durbin and Chris Coons would back a slimmed-down $748 billion compromise deal which omits the support.
- The bipartisan group trimmed off the parts that Republicans and Democrats had been finding hardest to agree on: state and local government aid, and legal protections for businesses.
- These now form part of a separate $160 billion proposal, which has less chance of passing.
- Durbin said: "I'm not giving up on funding for states and localities," but said he backed the $748 billion proposal without them for now.
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Some senior Democrats are preparing to drop their insistence on immediate support to state and local governments in order to move a COVID-19 stimulus deal along, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Both Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin and Biden confidante Sen. Chris Coons signaled on Monday that they would back the scaled-back deal of $748 billion, the AP said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to press for it to be included.
The AP also noted that several Democratic figures attended the press conference announcing the smaller package, suggesting growing support.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers who have spent the last weeks crafting a $908 billion relief proposal divided it into two sections on Monday in order to give some aspects a better chance to pass both the House and the Senate.
The proposal now consists of a $748 billion proposal containing measures that are largely agreed on across the board, including support for education, vaccine distribution, and unemployment insurance.
A second, $160 billion proposal separates off the two most contentious aspects to be addressed: liability protections for businesses in the pandemic (demanded by the GOP) and support for state and local governments (demanded by Democrats).
The group — which includes Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — dubbed their proposal a "Christmas miracle".
Read more: Lawmakers just unveiled the text of their 'Christmas miracle' coronavirus stimulus. Here's what's in the latest attempt to provide relief.
The proposal is being presented as a stopgap measure to get some support out over Christmas, with further negotiations expected when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Meanwhile, Pelosi — who backed the bipartisan plan when it stood at $908 billion and contained provision for state and local aid — continues to press for it. She spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone Monday evening about it, according to the AP.
She had earlier suggested that she would be willing to compromise on business liability protections, as long as they do not harm workers' rights.
But that stance may be fading across the party.
In a statement emailed to media outlets, Durbin backed the $748 billion deal and said he was "disappointed" that state and local government funding couldn't be agreed as part of it. He insisted he was not dropping the issue for good.
"This package does not include everything I think we need," he wrote, adding: "I want to be clear: I'm not giving up on funding for states and localities.
"[…] While the fight continues over these issues, we must provide some emergency relief for the American people before we go home for the holidays."
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