Friday, 30 Jul 2021

Schumer: Democrats invite Senate Republicans to COVID-19 relief talks

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results and the continuing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday that he and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi have formally invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans to bipartisan talks on new COVID-19 relief legislation.

“Our colleagues face a simple choice. They put the election behind them and work across the aisle to get something done, or they can remain in their partisan corner,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Efforts to hammer out a deal to deliver aid to Americans and businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic have made little progress, including a pre-election drive by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to agree on a package of around $2 trillion. Senate Republicans have rejected the idea of spending so much.

Earlier on Wednesday, McConnell said Congress should aim for agreement on items where there is little disagreement. But he blamed Democrats for blocking earlier Senate Republican efforts to approve spending packages of $500 billion, which Democrats have called inadequate.

“Republicans stand ready to deliver this urgent aid. Let’s fund all the programs where there’s not even real disagreement. Just this once, where there’s no disagreement. And let’s do it now. We just need Democrats to finally get serious about this,” McConnell said.

Schumer and his fellow Senate Democrats also unveiled new legislation to ramp up the national supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare and other frontline workers.

The New York Democrat said the legislation would authorize the strategic national stockpile to purchase $10 billion of PPE including N-95 respirators, gloves, gowns, masks, face shields and surgical masks. The bill also calls for the invocation of the Defense Production Act to expand industrial capacity and provides $1 billion in grants to help small businesses assist in PPE production, he said.

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