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Mitt Romney, bipartisan Senate group to propose 2-part coronavirus relief plan

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with audience members following a town hall meeting in Farmington in 2019.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with audience members following a town hall meeting in Farmington on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

A bipartisan group of senators, including Utah Republican Mitt Romney, intends to introduce a $908 billion COVID-19 relief package Monday that will be split in two parts.

One piece would provide $748 billion for support for small businesses, including Payroll Protection Program loans, added unemployment benefits, and vaccine development and distribution.

The other would provide $160 billion for state and local government as well as temporary liability protection from coronavirus related-lawsuits. Those two issue have been major sticking points in reaching a deal as the clock ticks on the current Congress.

The bipartisan group plans to hold a news conference Monday to announce the modified proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has long called for a liability shield from coronavirus litigation, while congressional Democrats have made money for states and cities their top priority. Breaking the proposal in two parts might give a relief package a greater chance to pass.

Romney is among a group of lawmakers who have vowed to stay in Washington through the holidays to get a deal done as businesses across the country shut down, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry, and Americans struggle to stay employed amid another COVID-19 surge.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of the leaders of the effort, said the bipartisan group and their staffs have met regularly the past month, including a call Saturday and another call later Sunday to “finish things up.”

“The bottom line is there’s a lot of parts to this bill, and in the spirit of compromise, you have to work through all of that,” Manchin told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “But at the end, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Romney expressed optimism earlier this month that Congress could get a relief bill passed before Christmas.

“I think it would send a terrible message if we’re home celebrating Christmas and people’s unemployment has run out and businesses are being closed,” he said.