House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer Wednesday threw their support behind using a $908 billion bipartisan stimulus proposal as the foundation for a new round of negotiations with congressional Republicans and the White House.  Democrats are saying it should be a starting point in negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

The pandemic relief bill was introduced this week by a bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers in a sign of movement in a stalemate that has been going on for more than 6 months.  The group is in hopes of getting a bill passed before the end of the year. 

The move by the two Democrats is the first real break by either side from long-held positions, and now puts pressure on McConnell and the GOP.  Pelosi and Schumer had been pushing for a multi-trillion dollar spending plan for over six months.  Their backing of the bipartisan legislation represents a huge concession after they pushed a multi-trillion dollar spending plan for over six months. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s most recent plan was for roughly $500 billion.  But back in July, Republican leaders and even President Trump had supported a bigger relief plan.  McConnell circulated a slimmer $500 billion package that didn’t include any additional funding for federal unemployment benefits. The bulk of the funding would be directed for small businesses.  Congress has faced urgency to move quickly as coronavirus cases rise nationwide and several emergency rescue programs aiding the unemployed are set to expire next month. 

“While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, 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,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

According to sources familiar with the proposal, under that bipartisan proposal, $180 billion would go to an extension of pandemic unemployment benefits, providing an added $300 a week for the four months, retroactive from December 1 until March.  $240 billion in new Paycheck Protection Program assistance for small businesses.  $160 billion in funding for state and local governments.  Also, %51 billion in new healthcare and vaccine related funds.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer earlier Wednesday expressed optimism that a deal could be reached by the weekend, to set up votes by the middle of next week.  

Over the next 10 days, Congress also has to deal with passing a $1.4 trillion annual spending bill to fund government operations.  The U.S. government has been working under a stopgap measure since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. That expires Dec. 11, and missing the deadline would trigger a partial government shutdown.

This article will be updated as appropriate.

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