President-elect Joe Biden swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday and his top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid as the congressional session speeds to a close. Biden said the developing aid package "wouldn't be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things," the AP reports. He wants a relief bill to pass Congress now, with more aid to come next year. Biden's remarks followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the "basis" for discussions. The announcement appeared aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 billion Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.
The Democrats embraced a $908 billion approach from moderate Sens. Joe Manchin and Susan Collins among others. It would establish a $300 per week jobless benefit, send $160 billion to help state and local governments, boost schools and universities, revive popular "paycheck protection" subsidies for businesses, and bail out transit systems and airlines. "In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations," Pelosi and Schumer said. McConnell wouldn't respond when asked about the Democratic statement. His top deputy, Sen. John Thune, said GOP leaders might agree to merging the bipartisan proposal with McConnell's bill.
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