The bipartisan group of lawmakers pushing a package with a $908 billion price tag held a news conference Monday afternoon to formally release their legislative text.
The group decided to split the plan into two bills with one of the bills dealing with the thorny issues of state and local aid and liability protections, while the other bill deals with provisions expected to win more widespread bipartisan support.
Congressional leaders have not yet signed off on any deal – a point that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia gave a nod to when he said, “Now it’s up to the leadership and make this happen on a timely basis.” But Manchin struck an optimistic tone, saying at the end of the news conference as he pointed to the bill text sitting on a podium, “help is on the way.”
It’s also not yet clear whether Democrats will broadly embrace the bill dealing with state and local aid and liability protections. Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine addressed that point, saying, “the other piece involving state and local aid and liability, we couldn’t come to a uniform consensus although there is still work going on in that area.”
GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine praised the bipartisan effort, saying, “I think we’ve had a Christmas miracle occur in Washington."
Echoing Manchin’s point on next steps, she said, “My hope is that our hard work will spur our leadership on both sides of the aisle in the Senate and in the House and in the administration to take our products and use them as the basis for a Covid relief package that is urgently needed.”
GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska referred to the stack of legislative text as “hope.”
“I think it’s important that you’re hearing and seeing that there is a unity in purpose here,” she said.
“It would be scrooge-like if we went away and left folks the day after Christmas to lose their unemployment, or the day after New Years to lose their apartment,” Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said at the news conference, describing the stakes.
GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio shared that he has lost multiple friends to coronavirus.
"I just lost my third friend to Covid," Portman said. "He died in a hospital after a painful process of being in the ICU and going through with his family the grief and the pain."