- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 12, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that he’s canceling next week’s recess as lawmakers continue to work towards a bipartisan agreement on an economic package to address the coronavirus.

“Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week. I am glad talks are ongoing between the administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, announced.

Lawmakers are divided over the House Democrats’ multi-billion-dollar proposed package that is slated for a vote in their chamber on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday morning, Mr. McConnell said Democrats were using the bill to “produce an ideological wish list.”

“It appears that over in the House, left-wing political messaging may have taken priority over the needs of our nation. It’s disappointing,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an earlier press conference that she believes the bill is still on track for a vote as scheduled, which wouldn’t impact the scheduled recess.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, has been in talks with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin throughout the morning. She said he had some suggestions and that many were “very reasonable.” She expects the final tweaks can still be made in time for a vote for the scheduled fly-out day.

“We don’t need 48 hours — we just need to make a decision to help families right now,” she said. “Everybody could have a complaint about this or that. I say, save it for another day… right now we have to find our common ground, work together, to get this done as soon as possible.”

“We are here to pass a bill. When we pass a bill we will make a determination about what comes next,” she added.

However, Mrs. Pelosi said her members should be ready to come back should they need to pass additional legislation during the break.

The ambitious package includes Democrats’ top three priorities: free coronavirus testing, paid emergency sick leave for all workers and shores up unemployment insurance with $ 1 billion in grants for state programs.

It also addresses food security for those hit by school closures or are otherwise isolated, and expands Medicaid.

One of the biggest sticking points appears to be the emergency sick leave plan, which would allow workers up to receive two-thirds of their wages for three months. This plan would expire on January 21.

The bill also creates a federally mandated benefit that requires employers to make 14 days of paid sick leave available immediately for all workers and allow them to accrue up to seven days.

The first votes in the House were delayed Thursday morning as lawmakers worked behind the scenes to finalize negotiations to the coronavirus bill.

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