House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said "there is a momentum" towards a coronavirus stimulus deal after new data on Friday showed sluggish employment growth amid a surge in infections.
The number of non-agricultural employees rose by 245,000 in November, well below the expectations of 440,000. The sign of a waning economic recovery is the renewed drive by Congress to pass pandemic relief law before the end of the year.
Pelosi spoke to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for the first time in at least a month on Thursday. The conversation raised hopes of an agreement on Capitol Hill to lift a coronavirus-damaged economic and health system.
The California Democrat said she and the Kentucky Republican agreed that if they can resolve open issues with that legislation, they want to attach relief efforts to a must for a state funding bill. Legislators must approve a spending plan by December 11th to prevent the government from closing.
"The tone of our conversations is an indication of the decision to get the job done," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
Democratic leaders, who have been calling for a comprehensive package to stimulate the US economy and health system for months, cited the employment report as a new justification for Congress action. Pelosi described the data as "one more indication that we need to destroy the virus to get the economy going".
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly press conference on December 4, 2020 in the U.S. capital in Washington, United States.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Minority, D-N.Y., Said in a statement that "this latest employment report shows the need for strong, urgent emergency relief is more important than ever."
"Senate Republicans increasingly understand this urgency, and Leader McConnell should hear their pleas, as well as those of millions of struggling American families," he said. "This job report warns that a two-dip recession is looming and should be a wake-up call for anyone standing in the way of genuine bipartisan relief," he continued.
After speaking with Pelosi on Thursday, McConnell told reporters that those in charge were "both interested in getting a result, both on the omnibus and in a coronavirus package".
Democrats, who can hold the house and block Senate legislation, have backed a $ 908 billion bipartisan support framework that was put forward by members of both chambers as a basis for talks with McConnell. The chairman of the GOP-controlled Senate wants to pass a tighter aid plan worth $ 500 billion.
President-elect Joe Biden echoed Democratic Congress leaders Friday after a job report he called "grim". The former vice president, who will spearhead the federal response to the pandemic when he takes office in January, said he was "encouraged" by renewed urges to pass a business cycle deal.
"Congress and President Trump need to reach a deal for the American people," he said in a statement. "But every package that is handed over in the Lame Duck session is not enough. It's just the beginning."
The sides have yet to resolve disagreements on issues such as unemployment insurance, support to state and local governments, education funding, and corporate liability coverage.
Biden previously called the bipartisan framework a "good start". Pelosi said she agreed with his assessment. She noted that "it's not all we want" and Democrats will likely push for more help when Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
The bipartisan proposal includes $ 288 billion of small business loans under the paycheck protection program, additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week, and $ 160 billion to state and local governments facing cuts in essential services . There is also money going into the distribution, education, transportation and rental support of Covid-19 vaccines. Democrats previously pushed for a bill that would cost at least $ 2.2 trillion, which would have reinstated an additional $ 600 a week in unemployment insurance and made another direct payment of $ 1,200.
McConnell's bill, like the Democratic Plan, would temporarily extend an extension of unemployment insurance eligibility, approve another round of small business loans, and step up vaccination efforts. However, it would not include improved unemployment benefits or state and local subsidies. It would also offer companies protection from Covid-19 lawsuits.
It's unclear how the job report will affect the content of an auxiliary bill – or how quickly Congress can pass it. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the chamber's third largest GOP member, cited Friday's job report as evidence of the strength of his party's economic policies.
In a statement, he called for "targeted aid to families in Wyoming and across the country," focused on PPP loans and Covid-19 vaccine distribution funds.
"We have no time to waste," said Barrasso.
About 12 million people will lose unemployment benefits after Christmas if Congress does not extend the provisions passed earlier this year. More than 20 million people are getting unemployment insurance as the economy struggles during the outbreak.
Eviction protection and a moratorium on the payment of federal student loans expire at the end of the year.
The White House has generally downplayed the extent of economic problems in recent months. Still, the director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, called for a targeted relief plan on Friday.
Speaking to CNBC, he said that discussions on Capitol Hill seem to be making progress.
"The conversation is good, we may make progress," he said.
But he added, "I can't make any promises this morning."
Disclosure: Larry Kudlow is a former CNBC employee
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