Merkley: McConnell blackmailing Congress over COVID relief

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Latest plan: No cash for local governments, no lawsuit protections for business

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Lawmakers say they’re on the brink of reaching a deal for another round of COVID relief, but the latest version proposes leaving out both money for state and local governments and COVID-related lawsuit protections for business.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said that’s a bad compromise and blames Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Completely unacceptable,” Merkley said. “What he has done to try to blackmail Congress into accepting corporate impunity – that is the ability to crush the rights of ordinary Americans – is to say there will be no state and local assistance unless he succeeds in stripping Americans of this fundamental liberty.”

Instead of providing more help to states, lawmakers are now leaning toward shifting those funds to the popular stimulus checks to Americans. The aid package is expected to extend unemployment benefits, include money for vaccine distribution and help struggling businesses and schools.

Southern California Congressman Pete Aguilar said there’s an urgent need for relief.

“People are suffering, mourning the loss of loved ones, suffering economically, and our community knows that Congress needs to act,” Aguilar said.

McConnell said he hopes lawmakers will strike a deal in time to attach it to the budget, which must be passed by Friday.

“We agreed we will not leave town until we make law,” McConnell said.

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