'We are not leaving': Mitch McConnell pledges Congress won't break for the year until a stimulus plan is passed

  • Republican leaders say they are determined to pass a coronavirus stimulus that includes provisions both sides agree on.
  • The package would contain money to distribute the vaccine, forgivable loans for small businesses, and support for schools.
  • It would leave out contentious issues, including money for states and liability protections for businesses. 
  • "No matter how long it takes, we'll be here," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Tuesday that Congress would not adjourn for the year until it passed a new stimulus plan, in the surest sign yet that lawmakers will send a relief bill to President Donald Trump's desk before the end of the year.

"We're not leaving here without a COVID package," McConnell said Tuesday at the weekly Republican press conference.

"No matter how long it takes, we'll be here," he added.

The Kentucky Republican reiterated his offer from last week to put aside his push for a liability shield for employers against virus-related lawsuits if Democrats set aside their insistence on funding for state and local governments. Both issues have gummed up the negotiations for months.

McConnell pointed to President-elect Joe Biden's strong support for another relief package and said there would be more time next year to debate the two contentious issues.

"We all know the new administration will be asking for yet another package," McConnell said. "It's not like we won't have another opportunity to debate the merits of liability reform and of state and local government in the very near future."

Most Senate Democrats, apart from Joe Manchin of West Virginia, oppose the liability protections that McConnell has proposed. Many Republicans — though not all — have said that assisting state governments would amount to "a blue-state bailout" because they worry states would use the money to plug their public pension funds or spend it on other non-virus-related priorities.

Read more: 'He's the majority-maker': It's Joe Manchin's moment and he's seizing it as the West Virginia Democrat becomes one of the most important people in the fast-approaching Biden era

McConnell first offered to set aside liability protections last week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer turned him down. McConnell twice tried to bring a $500 billion relief bill to the Senate floor, but it was blocked by Democrats who panned it as insufficient.

"We have been trying for months," McConnell said. "We shouldn't have been put in this position."

But there are signs that Democratic opposition to punting the issue until next year is softening. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer opened the door in a CNN interview on Sunday to omitting state and local aid from a relief package. Several Democrats in the House and Senate agree with that approach, which could put pressure on Democratic leaders.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is speaking with Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to hammer out the deal, the speaker's office announced.

Schumer refused to say whether Democrats would drop their push for state and local funding. "I'm not going to get into negotiations in any way. That will occur at 4 o'clock," he said during Democrats' weekly press conference.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers attempted to end the logjam over a new federal rescue package on Monday by introducing two separate bills. One contained $748 billion in funding with provisions that most lawmakers support, and the other included the divisive issues over liability protections for businesses and state funding.

Read more: Bernie Sanders urges Democrats to reject the 'totally inadequate' bipartisan stimulus bill, blasting the lack of $1,200 direct payments and smaller price tag

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