WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Despite a growing bipartisan push for a deal, United States lawmakers are starting to leave Washington and head home for Thanksgiving without passing a COVID-19 relief package.
The big question now is when relief will come – and not even lawmakers themselves know the answer.
“What I would like to focus on now is a relief package,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday.
Graham seems ready to meet Democrats in the middle in an effort to get a COVID relief bill through Congress before the end of the year.
He said he thinks more than $500 billion is needed. That’s more than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and many of Graham’s Republican colleagues have been willing to spend.
“In South Carolina, our economy is hanging pretty tenuous,” Graham said.
Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones is also pushing for compromise as cases in his state and across the country spike.
“We’re seeing a dangerous rise in cases at this point,” Sen. Jones said Wednesday. “This is not a time to let our guards down.”
Democrats and Republicans are still far apart and the Senate has already left for home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I just don’t anticipate we’re going to get one by the end of the year,” Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne said Wednesday.
Byrne said if Congress cannot come together on a larger deal, lawmakers should pass smaller, individual bills to help families.
“We must act now,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Thursday as he pushed to pass an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program before the House heads home.
“This could be done today,” he added. “Help could be on the way.”
When Congress returns the first week of December, they’ll have just 15 work days until the 116th Congress ends. Then, on Jan 3, the new 117th Congress is sworn in and will have to start from scratch.