President-elect Joe Biden on Monday quickly quashed a report that he might break with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and agree to a compromise short of $2.4 trillion on a COVID-19 relief bill.
“This is incorrect. The President–elect fully supports the Speaker and Leader in their negotiations,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates stated.
House Democrats passed a more than $3 trillion bill in May, and Senate Republicans responded initially with a $1 trillion plan before talks stalled.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) say they reduced by $1 trillion their proposal — to $2.4 trillion — and argue Senate Republicans must agree to spend more. Pelosi objects to a piecemeal approach of first passing the most popular relief items.
The Biden denial closely followed a New York Times report that said many Biden advisers were “convinced” that effects of the pandemic “require more urgent action before year’s end,” potentially meaning momentum to compromise.
Among the sticking points in relief talks is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that any bill include liability protections for businesses, which Democrats largely oppose.
Republicans, meanwhile, oppose Democratic plans to generously assist state and local governments, which they say would unfairly bail out poorly run Democratic areas.
There also is disagreement on reviving a federal unemployment subsidy. Democrats want to fully restore a $600 weekly supplement that expired in July, but Republicans object, noting in some states people earned more for not working.
Amid gridlock, Trump in August signed an executive order temporarily allowing a $400 weekly boost in unemployment insurance payments if states chip in $100 and restored a federal ban on evictions and extended deferral of college loan payments.
Although some conservatives are wary about adding to the national debt, Republicans and Democrats generally agree on many elements of relief legislation, including another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and funds for cash-strapped businesses, including another round of forgivable loans via the small-business Paycheck Protection Program.