Stimulus Plans Sidelined as Georgia Senate Runoffs Draw Focus, Says GOP Rep

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) has suggested that the focus on Georgia's runoff Senate races is drawing lawmakers' focus from pushing through a further COVID-19 relief package.

It has been eight months since the CARES Act was passed by the Senate, with an ongoing stalemate over the contents of a fresh stimulus bill.

Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have agreed a need for more action to be taken, disagreements over the details of this—and the amount to be spent on it—has led to an impasse.

Reed has said he thinks a deal could be reached by year end but suggested that a focus on the Georgia races—set to determine control of the Senate—is distracting his colleagues in Congress.

"My concern is that we're getting pushback from leadership saying that the elections in Georgia is their top priority, not getting a COVID package done," he said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.

"That is just in my opinion downright disappointing. Their priorities should be the American people, who are suffering, who need a stimulus package."

Reed, who is co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, suggested that if Congressional leaders cannot reach a deal they should "get out of the way" and let other leaders "do the job for you."

He suggested that there is a "path forward to put an emergency bill together before the end of the year that the president will sign," suggesting this could be worth between $500 billion and $1 trillion. Reed spoke of having spoken to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. He said this would "get us through" March 1 and allow for the next administration to judge if additional stimulus is needed.

Reed said it would "get us through this immediate future. We will continue to push and I can tell you that we are not going to sit idly by."

He said the priorities of the spending would be unemployment benefits, paycheck protection program and stated industry specific support for venues, transportation and restaurants could be considered.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have previously held talks with Mnuchin, with Meadows having been involved in these negotiations initially, but failed to reach a bipartisan agreement earlier this year.

The Democratic figureheads have since called upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold more talks, and their respective staff have had recent discussions. However, each side continues to blame the other for the delay in stimulus relief.

The Problem Solvers Caucus proposed a package worth around $1 trillion earlier this year, though this failed to gain traction.

Democrats have twice passed bills in the House since the CARES Act passed, the HEROES Act and an updated version of this, though these have faced pushback from GOP leadership in the Senate. Meanwhile, Republican leadership in the Senate previously suggested a so-called skinny bill which also failed to muster support.

Newsweek has contacted McConnell, Pelosi and Schumer's offices for comment.

tom reed
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) (C) speaks to reporters during a news conference with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) (L) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) at the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2018. He has called for a stimulus package to be passed this year and pushed for Congressional leaders to find agreement. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images