Nancy Pelosi calls Joe Biden, upcoming vaccine ‘total game-changer’ on coronavirus relief dynamics


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden played a big role in her decision to embrace a smaller coronavirus relief deal.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said that the post-election dynamics made it easier to accept a smaller deal because she knows there’s potential for another, larger bill when Mr. Biden takes office in January.

“That is a total game-changer — a new president and a vaccine,” she said. “We have a new president — a president who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus.”

Earlier this week, she stepped away from her $2.2 trillion asking price that included a large array of benefits and programs and endorsed a $908 billion framework as a new starting point for negotiations with Republicans.

A deal hasn’t been finalized, but many lawmakers on Capitol Hill are optimistic that this bipartisan, bicameral proposal might get leadership on both sides of the aisle across the finish line after months of stalled talks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, have touted their own proposal that is far narrower than the bipartisan one.

President Trump agreed to support Mr. McConnell’s proposal and said he wants a deal made. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally on the Hill, said he thinks the president could support the $908 billion proposal if it has the right policy language.

The $908 billion proposal would provide $160 billion for state and local governments, $288 billion for small business assistance and the Paycheck Protection Program, along with short-term protections for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits — blending top Democratic and Republican priorities with widely agreed-upon bipartisan programs.

There would also be more funds to provide $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits through March and $16 billion for vaccine distribution. But it does not include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers that introduced the proposal is aiming to turn its framework into legislative text by early next week.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McConnell have had discussions of their own, and are eyeing an end-of-year spending deal as the vehicle to get any potential COVID-19 relief deal to the president’s desk.

Lawmakers still have completed a deal for a comprehensive omnibus spending package and only have until Dec. 11 to have it signed into law and avoid a government shutdown.

“As they work on the text, we hope that it will take us very close to something we can put into the omnibus,” she said. “That is the vehicle leaving the station.”

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