Pelosi calls meeting with congressional leaders to discuss COVID relief


Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is meeting with other congressional leaders Tuesday afternoon to discuss finalizing a government spending measure and a coronavirus relief bill, as the window is swiftly closing for Congress to take action before government funding expires on Friday and critical relief programs lapse at the end of the month.

Pelosi will meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in her office at 4 p.m., a Democratic source confirmed to CBS News. An aide to McConnell confirmed the majority leader will attend.

A spokesperson for Pelosi wrote on Twitter that she had spoken to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and said that Mnuchin would join the meeting later on Tuesday afternoon by phone. Mnuchin and Pelosi have been engaged in negotiations for several months.

“The Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin spoke at Noon by phone for 1 hour, 7 minutes and discussed the latest on COVID and Omni talks. The Secretary will join the Four Corners leadership meeting today at 4 p.m. by phone,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said.

The meeting comes after a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers on Monday introduced two bills on coronavirus relief amounting to $908 billion. Pelosi and Schumer have previously called for the framework proposed by this group to be the basis of any negotiations.

The first bill totals $748 billion and includes additional funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program, schools and unemployment insurance, as well as more money for vaccine development and distribution, coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The second measure, amounting to $160 billion, addresses two sticking points that have stalled negotiations: funding for state and local governments, which is critical for Democrats, and liability shields for businesses and institutions, which is a priority for McConnell.

But McConnell said on Tuesday that he was willing to set aside liability protections and focus on the first bill, if Democrats are also willing to give up passing something on state and local aid.

“We ought to agree on what we can agree on,” McConnell said.

The meeting between House and Senate leadership on Tuesday signals that lawmakers might be willing to compromise after months of disagreement. Pelosi and McConnell have also said they would like to pass a new omnibus measure to fund the government for a year instead of a continuing resolution that would extend the current funding for a limited period of time. Congress passed a continuing resolution last week to extend the deadline for government funding to December 18.

Both houses must vote on the legislation and then it must be signed by President Trump by midnight on Friday to avert a shutdown.

Kimberly Brown contributed to this report.

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