Ohio Lawmakers Push For COVID-19 Relief Deal As Clock Ticks
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman joined a bipartisan group Monday to unveil the latest attempt at a coronavirus relief package that could maybe get enough support to pass.
With unofficial Friday deadline looming, lawmakers turn to compromise
Sen. Portman joined bipartisan group in unveiling new proposal on Monday
Ohio Republicans and Democrats call for some type of deal before Christmas
“There’s a lot of common ground here,” Portman said. “Yeah, we’ve got some differences, but look at this. It required these individuals behind us to find that common ground.”
The proposal is actually broken into two:
A less controversial $748 billion pool of money that would help small businesses, restart federal unemployment benefits, put more dollars toward schools and vaccine distribution, and more.
A more controversial $160 billion that would go to state and local governments, as well as lawsuit protections for businesses — two topics that have left both parties debating for months.
But there is a growing appetite among Ohio lawmakers to reach a deal by the end of the week.
“It doesn’t do as much as I want, but it’s something we have to do now before the end of the year. We should not go home for Christmas until this is done,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) said in a virtual interview Dec. 10.
“We do need a bill,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R, 1st Congressional District) said in an interview Dec. 10. “And the American people need the help and they need it in my community. And I certainly want to support the bill.”
“It’s not as long and impactful over the long haul as much as we need it to be, but it will get us through December, January, February, hopefully into March,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D, 13th Congressional District) said in a Skype interview Dec. 4.
Republicans have long argued state and local governments don’t need more federal dollars because billions remain unspent that were approved back in the spring.
“The number one thing we need is flexibility for money that’s already available,” Rep. Warren Davidson said in a Dec. 9 interview.
And that flexibility would include broadening what the money could be spent on, and letting it be spent past the current Dec. 31 deadline.
“When I talk to my state and local governments, they tell me if we could extend the deadline and we could make it more flexible, then they could make that work,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R, 15th Congressional District) said in a Skype interview Dec. 8.
But Democrats say the places they represent are asking for more money to avoid things like layoffs, so they will continue fighting for it even if it’s not included in this next deal.
“It does not mean that we don’t come back to the table with a greater package, but to do nothing is irresponsible. So I am an advocate for doing something,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D, 3rd Congressional District) said in a virtual interview Dec. 5.
The big question, now, is whether congressional leadership from both parties will sign onto this latest proposal.
It doesn’t include another round of direct payments to Americans, which some lawmakers want, and it’s being debated at the same time Congress is trying to avoid a government shutdown, which will happen Friday night if a separate funding deal isn’t reached.