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Sen. King on stimulus compromise: 'We just couldn't get there' on liability protections, state and local aid

Jessica Smith
·Chief Political Correspondent
·3 min read

On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators announced two coronavirus relief bills aimed at ending the months-long gridlock that has kept Congress from passing another stimulus package.

The group had been working on a $908 billion compromise bill, but struggled to agree on liability protections and state and local aid. Ultimately, the lawmakers decided to split the package into two bills.

A $748 billion proposal will contain the less controversial measures like small-business aid, jobless benefits and money for vaccine distributions. Another proposal would contain the liability provisions and $160 billion in state and local aid.

Sen. Angus King (I., Maine) — who has been part of the group pushing for compromise — told Yahoo Finance that negotiations “just couldn’t get there” on the two biggest sticking points. King had worked closely with Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) to try and hammer out an agreement on liability protections.

“This isn't the last time, I'm sure, that we'll address this subject but we couldn't get there in time to complete these negotiations,” said King.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, walks through a corridor at the Capitol after the Senate failed to confirm President Donald Trump's controversial nominee to the Federal Reserve, Judy Shelton, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, walks through a corridor at the Capitol after the Senate failed to confirm President Donald Trump's controversial nominee to the Federal Reserve, Judy Shelton, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has urged lawmakers to temporarily drop state and local aid and the liability shield, and pass what they can agree on first. Democrats have so far rejected that idea, saying the bipartisan talks should play out.

At this point, it’s not clear if Democratic leadership will move forward without state and local aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters on Monday she supports state and local aid, but wouldn’t say if it would be a red line for Democrats.

“I'm not going to vote against a plan that will send three-quarters of a trillion dollars to the American people at a time when they really need it, because it doesn't have something [state and local aid] that I also want. So I hope that's the response,” said King.

The $748 billion package does not include another round of stimulus checks. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.,Vt.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) have been leading a push to include another round of direct payments in the bill.

“We started a cap on what could be spent, and it just wasn't enough,” said King. “We felt that the priority had to be those people who were unemployed and those businesses that were about to go under...it was sort of a triage project.”

It’s now up to Congressional leadership how to move forward with the proposals. King said there is a possibility that leaders could decide to add stimulus checks to the proposal later.

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.

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