McConnell Belatedly Congratulates Biden For Election Win : Biden Transition Updates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president- and vice president-elect on Tuesday for the first time. McConnell spoke with Biden later in the day.
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'Electoral College Has Spoken': McConnell Belatedly Congratulates Biden On Win

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'Electoral College Has Spoken': McConnell Belatedly Congratulates Biden On Win

'Electoral College Has Spoken': McConnell Belatedly Congratulates Biden On Win

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Congress met late into the night last night to try to finally hammer out a deal on stimulus relief funds. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was seen leaving the Hill shortly before midnight. And now this morning, we are learning more about just how close the two sides are to coming up with a deal. NPR's Claudia Grisales has been talking to both sides, and she is with us now. Good morning, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: What are you hearing? Where is this deal at this point?

GRISALES: So it looks like they made a lot of progress last night. A deal has not been made, but they seem like they are very close. My colleague Kelsey Snell spoke to several folks here, and the sense is that it's a roughly $900 billion deal that could include direct payments.

Now, state and local aid, which is something that Democrats really wanted, doesn't appear to be part of the deal at this point, as well as a liability shield for businesses that have struggled during the pandemic. That is something Republicans want, and it sounds like they're looking at moving forward without both those elements in this. But they hope to address a lot of these other issues where it comes to businesses that are struggling and need these loans through the Paycheck Protection Program and other efforts.

MARTIN: So, I mean, that sounds like an actual compromise, where both sides give something up. I mean, were those the main sticking points?

GRISALES: The main sticking point was that state and local aid and the liability shield. This is where they couldn't reach an agreement, and they were held up for months. And this came again - up again - I'm sorry - in the last few weeks. And so this is something they're looking at putting aside completely because they just can't get on the same page and just move forward with what they agree with.

MARTIN: So what does this mean for people out there, Americans who desperately need relief right now? Is there going to be a round of stimulus checks?

GRISALES: That is what they are looking for. It would be less than $1,200, and this is compared to what we saw last time. And this is what they're telling my colleague Kelsey Snell. And so this is something that they're trying to keep at a lower level because they're trying to keep this amount for this aid under a trillion dollars. They're trying to keep it around that roughly $900 billion figure.

And also, if you'll recall, last week we saw Senator Bernie Sanders really push this issue and say - said there needs to be a debate on this floor about these direct payments. So this will address a lot of concerns. We also heard interest from the Trump administration to include these payments as well.

MARTIN: Right. I mean, there had been reporting - NPR had done reporting about how people who didn't even live in America anymore were getting some of these direct payments, and big organizations that didn't necessarily need relief. What does this mean for the timeline? If we're seeing this breakthrough right now, when's it actually going to get done?

GRISALES: This is pretty late in the - because the government will run out of money on Friday, and they're trying to include this aid with this overall massive funding bill. But they may need more time, and that means they may need to pass another temporary funding bill. We're on a one-week temporary measure right now that runs out on Friday. So they may need to do something like that again in order to close this deal out.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Claudia Grisales, congressional reporter, with the latest. Again, Congress getting closer ever yet to reaching a deal for another round of pandemic-related relief. Claudia, thank you very much for your reporting. We appreciate it.

GRISALES: Thanks so much. Have a great one.

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