Pressure rises on U.S. Congress to pass COVID bill

As pressure mounts on the U.S. Congress to pass a coronavirus aid bill, Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the phone Thursday and agreed that a COVID-19 relief package and a government funding bill should pass “as soon as possible."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor Thursday said there were hopeful signs a deal could be reached after months of stalemate.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: “Compromise is within reach. We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again, we can do this."

President Trump also on Thursday said he felt that a deal would happen soon.

President Trump: “Think they're getting very close, and I want it to happen and I believe that they're getting very close to a deal, yeah.”

Democratic leaders had been urging a more comprehensive, costly bill - around $2.2 trillion dollars while Republicans were offering around $500 billion dollars.

But on Wednesday, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that a bipartisan $908 billion dollar aid bill unveiled this week should be the basis of new negotiations.

The bipartisan plan also appeared to gain favor among top Republicans. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly said on Thursday that he supports the proposal and that he talked to President Trump about it and was optimistic that the president would back it.

Congress is also working on a $1.4 trillion dollar funding bill to avert agency shutdowns in mid-December and leaders hope to attach a coronavirus aid bill to that must-do measure, if only they can reach a compromise.

And time is running out. At the end of December, a range of emergency aid programs in response to the pandemic expire, including additional unemployment benefits and a moratorium on renter evictions.

Video Transcript

- As pressure mounts on the US congress to pass a coronavirus aid bill, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the phone Thursday and agreed that a COVID-19 relief package and a government funding bill should pass as soon as possible. Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor Thursday, said there were hopeful signs a deal could be reached after months of stalemate.

MITCH MCCONNELL: So compromise is within reach. We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again, we can do this.

- President Trump, also on Thursday, said he felt that a deal would happen soon.

DONALD TRUMP: I want it to happen, and I believe that they're getting very close to a deal, yeah.

- And you'll support it?

DONALD TRUMP: I will. I will, absolutely.

- Democratic leaders had been urging a more comprehensive, costly bill, around $2.2 trillion, while Republicans were offering around $500 billion. But on Wednesday, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that a bipartisan $908 billion aid bill, unveiled this week, should be the basis of new negotiations.

The bipartisan plan also appeared to gain favor among top Republicans. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly said on Thursday that he supports the proposal and that he talked to President Trump about it and was optimistic that the president would back it. Congress is also working on a $1.4 trillion funding bill to avert agency shutdowns in mid-December. And leaders hope to attach a coronavirus aid bill to that must-do measure, if only they can reach a compromise.

And time is running out. At the end of December, a range of emergency aid programs in response to the pandemic expire, including additional unemployment benefits and a moratorium on renter evictions.