PANDEMIC

Stimulus talks near agreement — Schumer

Congress and the Trump administration are close to an agreement on an historic COVID-19 economic stimulus package expected to total more than $1.5 trillion, top senators said today.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said overnight talks have narrowed the distance to a few issues that can likely be resolved in the next several hours.

"Last night, I felt we were on the 5-yard line. Right now, I think we're on the 2," Schumer said before noon, citing a "very productive meeting" that had just concluded with incoming White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and the White House Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland.

Vice President Mike Pence said during a Fox News town hall this afternoon that the administration and lawmakers are close to a deal.

"We are really getting to the fine print," he said. "We are hoping for a vote today."

Schumer said he was pleased the forthcoming legislation included "significant" funding increases for the health care system, as well as struggling state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this morning that negotiators were close to a deal that includes contributions from both parties and includes top GOP priorities from his opening legislative offer.

Yet McConnell also continued to attack Democrats for injecting renewable tax credits and airline emissions controls into the stimulus debate, calling the House Democrats' new proposal "an encyclopedia of demands as though it were like a coronavirus proposal somehow."

Despite the GOP's Green New Deal rhetoric, energy taxes are not part of the House proposal, although it does propose a clampdown on airline emissions (E&E Daily, March 24).

The timing of an agreement or vote remains unclear, but senators from both parties are anxious to pass a stimulus and leave the Capitol, which is in violation of public health guidelines for mass gatherings.

But Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) cautioned her colleagues about the football analogies that were made by Senate leaders this morning, noting that "people on the 2 have fumbled the ball."

"We can't do that," she said in floor remarks.

Reporter Kellie Lunney contributed.

Twitter: @geofkoss Email: gkoss@eenews.net

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