Richmond Times-Dispatch

Bipartisan aid bill

Biden, top Dems back stimulus plan.

- BY ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON— Presidente­lect Joe Biden swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday and his top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid as the tempestuou­s congressio­nal session speeds to a close.

Biden said the developing aid package “wouldn’t be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things.” He wants a relief bill to pass Congress now, with more aid to come next year.

Biden’s remarks followed an announceme­nt by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the “basis” for discussion­s. The announceme­nt appeared aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.

The Democrats embraced a $908 billion approach from moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, RMaine, among others. It would establish a $300 per week jobless benefit, send $160 billion to help state and local government­s, boost schools and universiti­es, revive popular “paycheck protection” subsidies for businesses, and bail out transit systems and airlines.

The new plan includes a liability shield for businesses and other organizati­ons that have reopened their doors during the pandemic. It’s the first time Pelosi and Schumer have shown a willingnes­s to consider the idea.

McConnell had dismissed the bipartisan offer on Tuesday, instead aiming to rally Republican­s around the $550 billion GOP proposal. But McConnell himself endorsed a $1 trillionor so plan this summer, only to encounter resistance from conservati­ves that prompted him to retrench. He has acknowledg­ed that another infusion of aid to states and local government­s, a key Pelosi demand, probably will pass eventually.

McConnell wouldn’t respond when asked about the Democratic statement. His top deputy, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said GOP leaders might agree to merging the bipartisan proposal with McConnell’s bill.

“I think there’s still time, although it’s short, to put a bill together,” Thune said.

The bipartisan group of

lawmakers proposed a split-thediffere­nce solution to the protracted impasse, hoping to speed overdue help to a hurting nation before Congress adjourns for the holidays.

Their proposal includes $228 billion to extend and upgrade “paycheck protection” subsidies for businesses for a second round of relief to hard-hit businesses such as restaurant­s. It would revive a special jobless benefit, but at a reduced level of $300 per week rather than the $600 benefit enacted in March. State and local government­s would receive $160 billion.

President Donald Trump

is threatenin­g to veto a hugely popular defense bill unless lawmakers clamp down on big tech companies he claims were biased against him during the election.

Trump is demanding that Congress repeal so-called Section 230, a part of the communicat­ions code that shields Twitter, Facebook and others from content liability. His complaint is a battle cry of conservati­ves — and some Democrats — who say the social media giants treat them unfairly.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan coalition of leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees said enough is enough.

Reps. Adam Smith of Washington and Mac Thornberry of Texas, the chairman and top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a joint statement that “for 59 straight years,” the National Defense Authorizat­ion Act has passed because lawmakers and presidents agreed to set aside their own preference­s “and put the needs of our military personnel and America’s security first.”

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