U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. economy following a briefing with economic advisers in Wilmington, Delaware, November 16, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
Joe Biden‘s transition team denied Monday that the president-elect’s advisors have pushed Democratic congressional leaders to potentially accept a smaller coronavirus stimulus package in order to send more relief now.
In public remarks, the former vice president has repeatedly supported the effort by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to approve aid legislation that costs at least $2.2 trillion. However, a New York Times report Monday said Biden’s team has urged the Democrats to strike an agreement with Republicans as soon as possible to curb mounting economic damage from the outbreak, even if it means cutting their desired price tag.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates called the report “incorrect.” In a statement to NBC News, he said the president-elect “fully supports the Speaker and Leader in their negotiations.”
Leaders of the Democratic-held House and GOP-controlled Senate have not held formal stimulus talks since the Nov. 3 election. Both sides have yielded no ground as Republicans push for about $500 billion in spending — far less than what Democrats want.
Congress has failed to approve new aid money for months as the parties describe fundamentally different visions for what the economy and health-care system need to recover from the pandemic. Republicans have touted the U.S. economic rebound in recent months, though the progress looks like it will take a hit as states and cities put restrictions in place to curb surging infection counts.
The prospect of many Americans holding their usual Thanksgiving celebrations as the virus overwhelms hospitals has raised even more fears among public health officials.
Last month, Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that included $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits, another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, more than $400 billion in state and local government relief and another round of Paycheck Protection Program small business loans. While a $500 billion plan the Senate GOP tried to pass last month included PPP funding, it offered a smaller $300 per week unemployment benefit and did not include a second stimulus check.
Congress will not return from its Thanksgiving recess until next week. Then, leaders will occupy themselves with passing a government funding bill by a Dec. 11 deadline.
Lawmakers would face a challenge in reaching a stimulus compromise before Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
It may prove a difficult task then, too. While Democrats will hold the House next year, two January runoff elections in Georgia will determine whether Republicans keep control of the Senate.
After Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris huddled with Pelosi and Schumer on Friday, the Democrats said they “agreed that Congress needed to pass a bipartisan emergency aid package in the lame duck session” before Biden takes office, according to a joint readout of the meeting.
They said “that package should include resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, relief for working families and small businesses, support for state and local governments trying to keep frontline workers on the payroll, expanded Unemployment Insurance, and affordable health care for millions of families.”
Pelosi and Schumer have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to restart talks on a stimulus plan. The top Senate Republican has repeatedly said the Democrats have embraced policies not necessary to fight the crises.
Several economic relief provisions the federal government implemented earlier this year will expire at the end of December. They include a measure allowing many Americans to qualify for unemployment insurance for a longer period of time, along with relief for student loan borrowers and renters.
The U.S. Capitol dome is reflected on an ambulance at sunset in Washington, November 10, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters
Congress appeared nowhere close to passing another coronavirus relief bill Tuesday as infections surge across the country and new public health restrictions threaten businesses and jobs.
Lawmakers have not passed new aid in months during the health and economic crisis. As the virus again overwhelms hospitals and forces state and local officials to restrict economic activity, Republicans and Democrats have not budged from their positions on stimulus.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have not heard from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in about two weeks since the Kentucky Republican said he would take the lead for the GOP in the next round of talks. Democrats have pushed for a package that costs at least $2.2 trillion, while Republicans want a roughly $500 billion bill.
“If Leader McConnell and our Republican colleagues want to sit down and negotiate a bipartisan solution, with a bipartisan process, Democrats are ready and willing and able to do so,” said Schumer, D-N.Y.
Both McConnell and Pelosi have signaled they want to pass legislation this year, before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. But neither leader has showed willingness to yield ground, making it unclear what could get through the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House.
President Donald Trump has also devoted more of his energy in the last two weeks to fighting the 2020 election results than governing during a once-in-a-century crisis.
McConnell has insisted in recent days that the pace of economic recovery means Congress needs only to pass a targeted, narrow plan to get the country through the next few months. On Tuesday, he said Republicans “want to pass more coronavirus relief” but blamed Democrats for blocking bills the GOP tried to pass in recent weeks.
The legislation would include a $300 per week enhanced unemployment benefit, more Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses and liability protections for companies. It would not send a second direct payment to most Americans.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, has continued to push for a sweeping package after House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion bill last month. She contended Biden’s election gives Democrats more leverage in legislative talks. Biden on Monday called on Congress to pass a bill similar to the Democrats’ Heroes Act before he takes office.
The House-passed bill would reinstate the $600 per week supplemental jobless benefit that expired earlier this year, give another $1,200 stimulus check to individuals, send more than $400 billion to state and local governments and authorize more small business loans, among other provisions.
Spokespeople for Pelosi and McConnell did not immediately respond to requests to comment on whether the surging infections make the leaders more likely to pass a bill immediately.
Congress has failed to break its stalemate as the U.S. loses control of its Covid-19 outbreak. The country recorded a seven-day average of more than 150,000 cases a day on Monday.
The virus has now killed more than 247,000 Americans.
State and local governments have started to reinstate shutdowns to slow infections. Even so, some policymakers have not moved as quickly as public health officials would like as they try to balance concerns about businesses failing and workers falling into poverty in the absence of federal help.
A measure allowing Americans to qualify for unemployment insurance for a longer period of time during the pandemic expires at the end of the year. So do a Trump administration order meant to curb evictions and relief for federal student loan borrowers.
Promising vaccine trial data have raised hopes for the world emerging from the pandemic’s shadow sooner than later. Even so, it will likely take until at least the middle of 2021 for most Americans to get vaccinated.
Getting people inoculated against Covid-19 will take more federal help, as well. GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who like his party has called for a more narrow relief bill than Democrats want, urged Congress to pass legislation now in part to prepare vaccine distribution.
“That’s expensive and it’s important to make sure the resources are there for that,” he told CNBC on Tuesday.
U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responds to questions as she speaks to reporters about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the 2020 U.S. presidential election results during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will enter January with a more narrow Democratic majority, but she contended Friday that fewer seats will not force her to change her strategy.
“No, not at all,” she told reporters when asked if her party’s expected loss of at least six House districts in the 2020 election will force her to compromise more. “We have a president of the United States.”
Pelosi insisted “our leverage and power is greatly enhanced” by the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, who will choose whether to sign bills into law. Two likely Senate runoffs in Georgia in January will decide whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the GOP keep control of the chamber.
Congressional leaders’ refusal to cede ground has manifested most clearly in months of failure to send Americans more aid during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite House Democrats taking a hit and Republicans losing at least one Senate seat, the dynamic looks unlikely to change now.
Biden — who spent more than three decades in the Senate — has vowed to bring back a level of cooperation between the parties unseen in years.
Pelosi and McConnell both said this week that they would not yield from their pre-election positions on pandemic aid. House Democrats most recently approved a $2.2 trillion stimulus package — opposed by more than a dozen centrist members who had a mixed record in competitive 2020 elections.
Senate Republicans most recently proposed a $500 billion plan, which Democrats blocked.
Both leaders have called for more relief before the end of the year. After a Thursday call among Pelosi, Biden and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Democratic leaders called for a bipartisan relief plan during the lame duck session before the new Congress and president-elect take office in January.
The push for new aid follows yet another daily record of coronavirus infections, which topped 150,000 in the U.S. for the first time on Thursday. The raging outbreak has already caused states to tighten public health restrictions at a time when more than 20 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment assistance.
The parties have another massive task on their plates during the current session. Congress has to pass a government spending bill by Dec. 11 to avoid a shutdown.
On Friday, Pelosi said she is “optimistic” lawmakers can pass a comprehensive bipartisan spending bill. Failure to strike an agreement before the deadline could mean Congress approves another stopgap measure, as it did earlier this year.
Trump’s willingness to govern has become an open question during the final two months of his tenure. He has spent the days since the Nov. 3 election raging about the results and alleging unfounded fraud in states that decided the race between him and Biden.
Thom Tillis and Cal Cunningham, North Carolina
Democrat Cal Cunningham conceded Tuesday to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, one of the last undecided contests in the fight for control of the chamber.
NBC News has not yet projected a winner in the election. Tillis leads Cunningham by fewer than 2 percentage points with some votes outstanding.
In a tweeted statement, Tillis said Cunningham called him to concede Tuesday afternoon, a week after Election Day. The senator said his first priority after returning to Washington “will be defeating COVID-19 and getting the economy back on track.”
In his own statement, Cunningham said “the voters have spoken and I respect their decision.” He said he will “be proud of the work we did together to lift up the voices of North Carolinians who felt left behind by our politics.”
North Carolina was seen as a potential tipping point as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of the Senate and the ability to shape U.S. policy for at least the next two years. If NBC calls the race in Tillis’ favor, it will ensure the GOP enters January with at least 49 Senate seats. Democrats will have at least 48 after flipping one net seat in the 2020 races so far.
Georgia will hold at least one runoff in January to determine the majority.
Tillis leaned into his support for President Donald Trump during the final stretch of his first term in office. The 60-year-old senator voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett only eight days before the election amid criticism of Republicans’ swift action to fill the court seat.
Illustrating his difficulty in balancing the competing interests in his state, Tillis last year wrote a Washington Post op-ed saying he would oppose the president’s executive action to redirect military funds toward border walls — only to reverse course and back Trump’s move.
The president leads Democratic President-elect Joe Biden by about 1.3 percentage points in North Carolina. NBC has not yet called the race in the state.
The Democratic former state Sen. Cunningham ran as an independent-minded candidate in the swing state. The 47-year-old Army Reserve lieutenant colonel used a heavy fundraising haul in the final months of the campaign to push a health-care focused message.
But confirmation of a romantic entanglement with a woman who was not his wife appeared to hit his standing in the state during the final stages of the race. Still, Cunningham had a thin edge in polling averages heading into the election.
Tillis temporarily had to leave the campaign trail in October after he tested positive for Covid-19. He returned to the Capitol for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s confirmation.
David Bossie, who was named to lead Trump effort to challenge election results, tests positive for coronavirus
From left; Former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, Citizens United President David Bossie, former Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWitt, Arizona U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.,speaking, Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., participate in an Arizona Republican Party news conference, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Phoenix.
Matt York | AP
David Bossie, who just days ago was tapped to handle President Donald Trump‘s effort to challenge the results of the presidential election, has tested positive for the coronavirus, NBC News reported Monday.
As a result, Bossie is no longer part of the decision-making process of that challenge effort, a source told NBC News.
Bossie’s diagnosis came to light hours after news broke that Trump Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was positive with Covid-19, and days after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was revealed to be positive with the virus.
Two sources who spoke to NBC News said Bossie tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday.
One source said, “Because he can’t be at the campaign headquarters and he can’t be in the Oval Office [due to his diagnosis] Dave’s no longer a part of the decision-making process.”
David Bossie, president of Citizens United, speaks during the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Thursday, May 9, 2019.
Joe Buglewicz | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The other source said that Bossie is believed to be at home and feeling OK. But the same source said Bossie’s diagnosis is a problem because he is now “sidelined” now from the legal fight he was supposed to lead.
Bossie last Thursday participated in an Arizona Republican Party press conference about the Trump campaign in Phoenix.
At that event, Bossie, who was not wearing a mask, stood alongside U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko, state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, former Trump campaign officials Jeff DeWit and Boris Epshteyn, former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg.
Trump’s campaign is mounting a multi-state effort to legally challenge ballots in the election contest, and to recount ballots in a number of states. Bossie was appointed to head that effort on Friday, three days after Election Day.
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday was projected as the winner of the election by NBC News and by other major media outlets.
Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede the election.
Bossie, who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2016, was put in charge of the election challenge effort by the current campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law.
Bossie is head of the conservative advocacy group Citizens United.
The White House declined to comment, and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a reques for comment on Bossie when contacted by CNBC.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The two most powerful people in Congress — at least for the next two months — renewed their calls for coronavirus stimulus on Friday.
A relief deal could prove just as difficult to reach as it did before Election Day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., again called for a targeted aid package. In Kentucky, he argued a better than expected October jobs report that saw the U.S. unemployment rate fall to 6.9% reduces the need for a sweeping stimulus bill.
“I think it reinforces the argument that I’ve been making for the last few months, that something smaller – rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue – is more appropriate,” he told reporters, according to Reuters. McConnell noted that he will not necessarily lead the Senate in January: NBC News projects both Republicans and Democrats will hold at least 48 seats, with four races unsettled.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Republicans to restart aid talks that fell apart before the 2020 election. She told reporters that the “imperative to act could not be greater” after the U.S. posted a record of more than 120,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday.
Still, she said a narrow bill “doesn’t appeal to me at all.” The chambers of Congress failed to find common ground on relief before the election, as Senate Republicans tried to pass a $500 billion aid bill and House Democrats approved a $2.2 trillion package.
Areas of disagreement between the parties included state and local government aid, enhanced unemployment insurance and liability protections for businesses.
Democrats will keep control of the House next Congress, though they will likely lose seats, according to NBC News. Pelosi is expected to serve as speaker for at least one more term.
McConnell said earlier this week that he hopes to pass more relief money before the end of the year. How the results of the presidential election will shape President Donald Trump‘s desire to approve a bill during the lame duck session remains to be seen.
Though key unresolved states are too close to call in the presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden narrowly leads Trump in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, according to NBC News. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., appeared with Pelosi on Friday and suggested a Biden presidency would give Democrats more leverage in aid talks.
Economists and policymakers, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, have warned the economic recovery could lose steam if Congress does not pass more fiscal stimulus. Policies buoying those still unemployed, including supplemental jobless benefits and a federal moratorium on evictions, expired earlier this year.
Suspension of federal student loan interest will expire at the end of the year.
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper delivers a 20-minute campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
John Hickenlooper is projected to win Colorado’s Senate race, flipping a key seat to Democratic control, according to NBC News.
The former Colorado governor will defeat first-term Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Democrats aim to cut into the GOP’s 53-47 Senate majority in the 2020 election. Most of the pivotal Senate races were still too early to call when NBC projected Hickenlooper’s victory.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is also projected to win Colorado’s presidential race against President Donald Trump.
Gardner faced one of the toughest paths to reelection in the Senate as Colorado drifted further into blue territory during his first term. The 46-year-old walked a political tightrope as he supported the GOP’s swift and divisive confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett but touted bipartisan work on issues such as public lands preservation.
Former two-term Democratic Gov. Hickenlooper, like his party’s Senate challengers around the country, ran on a health-care focused platform. He had also criticized the Senate for its inability to pass coronavirus relief as infections spiked around the country ahead of the election.
Gardner, for his part, backed a $500 billion Republican aid bill last month in a vote designed in part to show vulnerable lawmakers had tried to pass stimulus legislation. Democrats blocked the bill as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried in vain to reach a larger bipartisan deal.
Since Gardner’s 2014 Senate race victory, Democrats had dominated statewide races in Colorado. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Michael Bennet won the 2016 presidential and Senate races, respectively, by more than 5 percentage points each. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis carried the state by more than 10 percentage points in 2018.
Early voting had spiked in Colorado amid the virus outbreak.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.