Senate buys time for COVID talks as some urge leadership to drop sticking points

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Time is running out to pass another coronavirus relief package, but many lawmakers still don’t want to budge on their priorities.

One senator argues the negotiators should take out the two main sticking points and pass what everyone can agree on: help for the unemployed, small businesses and schools. 

“The Senate only works when everybody is not crazy at the same time,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA. “We’re stuck in the same place that we were stuck in three months ago.”

One of the issues is the GOP’s liability shield from coronavirus lawsuits. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, said the protections are for small businesses and health care.

“Without them, we’ve effectively forced entire industries to choose between economic survival, or in the case of healthcare workers literal survival, and death by opportunistic lawsuits,” Blackburn said.

However, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, argues the provision is really a sweeping shield for corporations.

“Corporations who want protection from a few dozen lawsuits is equivalent to millions of workers from state and local governments being laid off? Give me a break!,” Schumer said.

That’s the other sticking point: more state and local funding. Republicans argue many states still have significant funds left over from previous packages, but Democrats say most cities are struggling.

“Our first responders, our county hospitals, people in public works, picking up the trash, working at the water company, all of those kinds of things,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-NV. “We need our cities to keep running all across the country.”

For now, Kennedy argues both measures should be left out in favor of things Congress can agree on, like more money for small businesses, unemployment benefits, vaccines, testing and schools.

“That’s the best we can do,” he said. “I say put it on the floor and say, ‘Here it is, dog. Let’s vote.’”

The Senate passed a bill Friday to fund the government for another week, which gives lawmakers more time to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus relief bill.

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