Top Democrat Willing to Drop State and Local Aid in Stimulus Deal to Get 'Essentials Done'

Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has signaled willingness to drop state and local aid in stimulus talks to end the congressional stalemate and deliver quick relief to struggling Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly nine months have passed since President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, and negotiations over another stimulus package have been deadlocked for over five months. As the pandemic continued to worsen in most parts of the country, Hoyer on Sunday indicated that the party could capitulate further to "get the essentials done."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "and I spent a lot of time on the phone together. And I am very hopeful that next week, we will be able to act on substantial relief," Hoyer said on CNN's Inside Politics, adding that Democrats "are not going to get everything we want."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in Wasington
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol November 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A group of bipartisan senators unveiled a $908 billion compromise measure earlier this month in an effort to break the logjam, but legislators are still ironing out the details of the bill. Two issues are still in dispute. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stood firm on opposing any measure that does not have COVID liability protections for businesses, and Democrats have been unwilling to budge on aid to state and local governments.

Hoyer stressed the importance of providing funding for small businesses, vaccine administration, unemployment and child care—"all of which are in agreement"—but signaled that state and local aid might make it onto the next bill.

It's "important. And if we can get that we want to get it. But we want to get aid out to the people who are really, really struggling and are at grave risk," he said. "We'll have time to get stuff done that we didn't include because we couldn't get political agreement, we'll have time to do that."

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who's part of the bipartisan group of lawmakers pushing for a compromise, on Sunday told CNN host Jake Tapper "we're going to introduce a bill tomorrow night."

Without a bipartisan deal, he added that "leadership can disregard it, I can't govern that."

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia echoed Cassidy's remarks, telling Fox News on Sunday that the group will release "a complete bill tomorrow before the end of the day."

Democrats held out for a comprehensive package for several months, but due to continued opposition from fiscally conservative Republicans, party leaders have since said they're willing to pass a stopgap measure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hope they will be in a better position to deliver further relief, including a highly-anticipated second round of stimulus checks, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

During a news conference Sunday, Schumer said "the good news on the negotiations is that the Gang of Eight is working hard and they hope to have something as early as tomorrow morning. It's not everything we all want, but it's a good framework and I hope everyone can come together around the Gang of Eight."

Newsweek reached out to McConnell's office for comment.