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McCarthy sets McConnell offer as COVID-19 relief baseline

House minority leader also touts ranking member selections

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy backs Mitch McConnell's COVID-19 relief plan.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy backs Mitch McConnell's COVID-19 relief plan. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The top House Republican said Thursday that his conference is eager to get a COVID-19 relief bill done, but he held firm that an approximately $500 billion measure introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the starting point for talks rather than a separate bicameral, bipartisan $908 billion measure that gained traction Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he has been closely working with President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and McConnell on the less financially robust COVID-19 relief package that McConnell introduced this week.

The summary of McConnell’s plan appears to have similar components to a $519 billion relief package that Republicans proposed in the fall but was disparaged by Democrats as “emaciated.” Democrats said this most recent iteration is still not enough. Still, McCarthy said the less costly plan is probably the true starting point on stalled talks.

“We want to get a bill done,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve been trying to talk with the speaker. I think she is becoming more open than she has in the past.”

But on Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, said they were willing to begin talks with the $908 billion offer, spearheaded in the Senate by Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican.

Pelosi and Schumer have been advocating for something above $2 trillion but said they would offer augmentations on the proposal, including cash injections for vaccine distribution and state and local governments.

Ranking member slots set

McCarthy also praised the selection of ranking members on committees who will serve as the top Republicans on their respective panels.

The new ranking members are:

The returning ranking members are:

Niels Lesniewski, David Lerman, Lindsey McPherson and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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