Bipartisan muscles ‘have atrophied’ in Congress

Congress is still negotiating a gigantic coronavirus stimulus package, after the Senate failed to move the measure forward with a procedural vote on Monday afternoon. It’s the second time the measure has failed in less than 24 hours. Democratic senators argue Republicans are putting corporations over workers, while Republicans argue Democrats are trying to add pet priorities to the legislation.

“A lot of these muscles have atrophied for too many folks in Washington who are not used to bipartisan work in a bipartisan way,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

Gottheimer and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) co-chair the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers which attempts to find common ground on complicated issues. The caucus is equally divided among Republicans and and Democrats and requires support of 75% of its members before recommending proposals. The group has released its own proposal to address the coronavirus crisis.

UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 11: Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., speak during the Problem Solvers Caucus press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“This was caused by mother nature throwing us a curve ball,” said Reed. “Hopefully, once we can bring people together and recognize each side has very important priorities that need to be merged into this bill, I think it’s a perfect time for both of us — both Republicans and Democrats — to merge their priorities into one package.”

The co-chairs said they’ve presented their coronavirus response ideas to Congressional leadership and the White House. Their priorities include direct relief to Americans, loans for businesses and tax credits for employers who retain employees.

“We’ve got to get resources immediately to individuals, especially hourly workers who are hurting,” said Gottheimer.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get resources to small, medium businesses and take care of our central, larger businesses and make sure that they have the resources through loans to stay afloat,” he added.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were close to a deal on Monday morning — but as the Senate failed to move its bill forward for the second time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a separate House bill. Still, the co-chairs remain optimistic.

Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance

“It’s more important than ever — regardless of dropping the bill in the House or what’s going on in the Senate — that we are working together and actually trying to listen to what the other side is putting together. Because once you hear it, a lot of times as we found in our experience, it’s amazing you’re actually saying the same thing. You’re just saying it with a different language and when once you break through that we can get this done,” said Reed.

The co-chairs acknowledge it’s frustrating that lawmakers still haven’t come together on Phase 3 relief yet, but they are confident Congress will eventually break its partisan habits.

“They have to do it and they will. But, you know, I think it’s just challenging when… when you’re not used to operating this way to suddenly have to operate this way,” said Gottheimer.

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.

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