Top negotiators reported progress on a long-delayed COVID-19 aid package Tuesday after a rare meeting of Capitol Hill's four most senior lawmakers. The quartet, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, said they would reconvene Tuesday night in hopes of sealing an agreement soon, the AP reports. "I think there's progress," reported House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as he left the session in Pelosi's office. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joined by phone. "We are still talking to each other and there is agreement that we are not going to leave here without the omni and the COVID package," said McConnell, using Capitol Hill's shorthand for a catchall, omnibus spending bill that would be paired together with the COVID relief measure.
The Kentucky Republican is pressuring Democrats to drop a much-sought $160 billion aid package for states and local governments struggling to balance their budgets because of the pandemic. Pelosi pushed for the aid in talks Monday, but top Democratic allies of President-elect Joe Biden came out in support of a $748 billion plan offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and hinted they won't insist on a pitched battle for state and local aid now. "We cannot afford to wait any longer to act. This should not be Congress’ last COVID relief bill, but it is a strong compromise that deserves support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate," said Democratic Sen. Chris Coons. The $748 billion aid package includes money for struggling businesses, the unemployed, schools, and vaccine distribution.
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