1. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader:
"The election is over. The time is now to work and there's an opportunity to get it done now. I know for more than 40 times you (Speaker Pelosi) said no, but today we hope that you will say yes. How many more businesses have to shutter? How many more dreams have to be shattered? How many more people have to be laid off before Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will act? I'll promise you this, the Republicans will continue to work in good faith just as we put forth bills again and again that the Democrats have voted no on, just as we worked with the Senate and the White House.
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:
"Now if we need more time then we take more time, but we have to have a bill and we cannot go home without it. I have to believe the administration and the Republicans in the senate when they say do not want to shut down government."
++SOTS SEPARATED BY WHITE FLASH++
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:
"Who knows? We'll see how it goes. But we do have to we cannot leave here without having a piece of legislation. And I can say this unequivocally. What Mr. McConnell is putting forth in terms of liability is such an assault on American workers that I hope that the group goes nowhere near what he is presenting."
Even as negotiations continue, congressional leaders are placing blame on each other for the lack of a final COVID-19 relief bill. A one-week extension of a potential government shutdown appears to have sapped some urgency from the talks.
The only must-pass measure this week is the short-term government-wide funding bill, which was approved by the House on Wednesday and needs to clear the Senate before Friday at midnight to avert a partial closure.
That measure would give lawmakers more time to sort through the mess they created for themselves with months of fighting and posturing on pandemic aid. Deadlines, real and perceived, haven't been sufficient to drive Washington's factions to an agreement. The next deadline would be Dec. 18, but both House and Senate leaders say they won't adjourn without passing an aid measure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is sending lawmakers home with no set schedule for their return, said Congress would keep working up to or even after Christmas to get an agreement. The new Congress is being sworn in on Jan. 3.
“Now if we need more time then we take more time, but we have to have a bill and we cannot go home without it," Pelosi said Thursday. She also gave an upbeat assessment on the talks.
Top Democrats are placing their bets on a bipartisan group of senators trying to iron out a $908 billion package. That group is getting no encouragement from McConnell, but members are claiming progress on perhaps the most contentious item: a McConnell demand to give businesses and other organizations protections against COVID-19-related lawsuits.
The Trump administration is back in the middle of the negotiations with a $916 billion plan. It would send a $600 direct payment to most Americans but eliminate a $300-per-week employment benefit favored by the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators.