Two senators are making a last-ditch effort to craft a compromise…

Two senators are making a last-ditch effort to craft a compromise on one of the biggest issues standing in the way of a COVID-19 relief deal.
Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says Stacey Abrams ‘conned’ Georgia GOP into helping Biden winChris Cuomo on Lindsey Graham: ‘You don’t mean save the country. You mean save your ass’Momentum stalls for COVID-19 relief billMORE (R-S.C.) and Angus KingAngus KingMomentum stalls for COVID-19 relief billPelosi blasts McConnell suggestion to pare down COVID-19 relief bill: ‘Appalling’Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformationMORE (I-Maine) are holding conversations on coronavirus liability protections for businesses and other organizations in an attempt to find common ground where other senators have failed. Even if they reach a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden taps ex-Obama chief for VA | Shutdown looms amid standoff | SCOTUS rules on rape cases in militarySanders, Hawley team up to demand vote on second round of stimulus checksBette Middler blasts McConnell: ‘How did he win with an 18% approval rating?’MORE (R-Ky.) will have to be convinced that it should go to the floor for a vote.
Graham and King continued to negotiate on Thursday and told colleagues they are close to coming up with a proposal.
Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden taps ex-Obama chief for VA | Shutdown looms amid standoff | SCOTUS rules on rape cases in militarySanders, Hawley team up to demand vote on second round of stimulus checksOn The Money: Millions of Americans in poverty as Black, Native American wages stagnate | Jobless claims jump to 853K | Economists warn against excluding state aid from COVID-19 reliefMORE (R-S.D.) on Thursday raised doubts that Graham and King will be able to reach an agreement thats broadly acceptable to Senate Republicans and Democrats.
My sense is that theyre not going to get there on the liability language, Thune said, suggesting any compromise is unlikely to be palatable to Democrats like Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Congress moves to avert shutdown as virus talks stall againDurbin to become top Democrat on Judiciary panel, keep No. 2 spotMomentum stalls for COVID-19 relief billMORE (Ill.) and Republicans like Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMore than 100 House Republicans sign brief backing Texas lawsuit challenging election resultsGOP lawmaker: Texas election lawsuit represents ‘a dangerous violation of federalism’GOP Texas senator questions ‘legal theory’ behind Trump’s lawsuit to challenge state’s election resultsMORE (Texas).
I just think youve got on their side Durbin, who basically represents the trial lawyers in this conversation, and Sen. McConnell and Sen. Cornyn, who on our side have worked on this for a long time, he said.
Cornyn also expressed doubt Thursday about Graham and King finding a solution on liability reform that has eluded negotiators for months.
He said a proposal to pause coronavirus lawsuits to give states time to pass their own liability protection legislation or for Congress to come up with a standard for litigation sounds like kicking the can down the road.
Thune said the best chance for getting a COVID-19 deal passed is to remove the liability protection language and new federal funding for state and local governments the two most contentious issues and pass a smaller bill made up of items with broad bipartisan support, such as a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business loans.
You could probably get 70, 80 votes for that in the Senate, he said.
McConnell earlier in the week called for removing the two divisive provisions and passing a slimmed down version.
Even though they spent a lot of time trying to come up with creative, innovative solutions to it, theyre just not going to be able to thread the needle, Thune said of so-far fruitless efforts to reach a compromise on liability protection.
To vote on legislation next week, the last full week before Christmas, leaders would need legislative language by the weekend, Thune said on Thursday.
Hours earlier, Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump’s political future depends on whether he can changeHouse passes stopgap bill to avoid government shutdownUS job openings rise to three-month highMORE (N.Y.) again dismissed the idea of dropping both liability protections and new state and local funding.
He instead tied state and local relief to a new round of PPP funding.
There is strong bipartisan support for state and local aid. There is not the same broad bipartisan support for sweeping corporate immunity, he said. The two policies are not remotely equivalent.
If you want PPP so small businesses dont lay off people, why wouldnt you want state and local aid so governments dont lay off people? he asked.
Members of the bicameral, bipartisan group that essentially reinvigorated negotiations last week with a $908 billion proposal said they are very close to reaching a deal on a formula for distributing $160 billion in new relief to cash-strapped state and local governments. But without buy-in from GOP leadership, the package wont reach the floor for a vote.
The struggle for a breakthrough after months of sporadic negotiations comes as the Labor Department said Thursday that the number of new unemployment claims increased last week to 853,000, as coronavirus cases have been surging nationwide.
House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Momentum stalls for COVID-19 relief bill | Congress barrels toward ‘COVID cliff’ | House passes stopgap bill to avoid government shutdownHouse passes stopgap bill to avoid government shutdownBiden picks leave Democrats with slimmest House majority in modern historyMORE (D-Md.) told lawmakers Thursday that no further votes are expected before Tuesday evening since there isnt a deal yet for attaching a relief package to a year-end government funding bill.
I am hopeful that over the next 72, 96 hours, that there will be a lot of work being done, he said.
Hoyer added that the 116th Congress wont be adjourned until a coronavirus relief and government funding package are passed. The 117th Congress is slated to convene in early January.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVeterans healthcare fight snagging government funding dealPelosi warns of ‘danger’ as Republicans supportive of QAnon poised to join CongressHawley introduces bill for second round of stimulus checksMORE (D-Calif.) warned the bipartisan group with the $908 billion proposal that a liability protection provision along the lines of McConnells preference would be problematic for Democrats.
What Mr. McConnell is putting forth in terms of liability is such an assault on Americas workers that I hope that the group goes nowhere near what he is presenting, she said at a news conference.
A separate proposal that McConnell circulated earlier this month included limits for coronavirus-related personal injury claims against businesses, coronavirus-related medical malpractice claims, and labor and employment claims against businesses helping to fight the pandemic.
Pelosi said shed like Congress to pass a relief package by Dec. 26, when certain unemployment aid expires, and hopefully by Dec. 18, the new deadline for government funding under a House-passed measure the Senate has yet to take up. But she also said the House cant vote until a relief bill is ready and it has enough votes to pass.
Weve been here after Christmas, you know, she said.
Even if Congress extends employment insurance programs before Dec. 26, some policy experts think there could be a period of time when people see their benefits lapse because it will take time for states to update their systems to account for the changes.
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinVeterans healthcare fight snagging government funding dealOn The Money: Millions of Americans in poverty as Black, Native American wages stagnate | Jobless claims jump to 853K | Economists warn against excluding state aid from COVID-19 reliefMnuchin faces heat over coronavirus rescue loan to trucking companyMORE struck an optimistic tone about relief-package negotiations this week, saying he had conversations with senators on both sides of the aisle Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
I think we’re making a lot of progress, Mnuchin told reporters Thursday morning before a congressional hearing. I want to thank people on both sides who made a huge effort to try to compromise.
Mnuchin said there are a lot of similarities between the White Houses recent $916 billion offer and the bipartisan $908 billion proposal, and that whatever we can agree on should be in the deal.