Congressmen on their bipartisan Covid relief proposal: ‘This has to get done’

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) are part of a bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers continuing to work toward a Covid relief package that both sides can compromise. They joined “Squawk Box” on Monday to discuss. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

Congress faces more pressure than ever this week to pass another coronavirus relief bill.

Lawmakers’ ability to break a longstanding logjam and send more help will play a massive role in how much more the crisis ravages Americans’ health and wallets.

Congressional leaders aim to approve both pandemic aid and a spending package before government funding lapses Saturday. Republicans and Democrats still need to strike a deal on both fronts with only days to spare before millions would face eviction or the loss of unemployment benefits.

A bipartisan group hopes to spur movement toward legislation that can get through the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House. Lawmakers from both chambers plan to release a $908 billion rescue bill Monday.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat and co-chair of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus that helped to spark the deal, said he hoped the bill would help to shape a proposal Congress can pass this week.

“It doesn’t have to be every single word that we hand [congressional leaders] … but this is a clear road map for them,” he told CNBC on Monday morning.

Members of both parties have stressed the need to send relief before they go home for the holidays. What they have not agreed on since April is what help exactly the health-care system and economy need until widespread vaccination reins in a disease killing thousands of Americans every week.

Congress has very little time. The House is not expected to take any votes before Wednesday, according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office.

In one sign of efforts to find consensus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for about 30 minutes on Sunday about spending and stimulus. The pair plans to talk again Monday, according to Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill.

Congress faces a challenge in trying to resolve several sticking points before Friday.

The parties have failed to settle disputes over proposals to give businesses immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits and send aid to cash-crunched state and local governments. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have threatened to delay passage of a bill if it does not include another direct payment to Americans. The bipartisan proposal does not include a second $1,200 check.

Republicans have pushed for a legal immunity plan. While they argue the provision would save small businesses from frivolous lawsuits, Democrats say it would endanger workers put into dangerous positions by their employers.

Meanwhile, Democrats and many Republicans have pushed for state and local funding as essential to preserve jobs for first responders and streamline the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, which Americans started to receive Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have contended the funds would bail out mismanaged states. Bipartisan governors have called for at least $500 billion more in state and local relief.

Underscoring the disagreements, the bipartisan group in the Senate plans to introduce two separate bills Monday, Problem Solvers Caucus co-chair Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., told CNBC. One includes the lawmakers’ legal immunity and state and local aid proposals. The other contains everything else.

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