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Democrats swing behind bipartisan virus aid bill; Biden calls it 'down payment' ahead of inauguration

Democrats swing behind bipartisan virus aid bill; Biden calls it 'down payment' ahead of inauguration

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says President Donald Trump would sign a proposal for COVID-19 relief funding backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a scaled-back GOP bill that has already failed twice this fall.

President-elect Joe Biden swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday and his top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid as the tempestuous congressional session speeds to a close.

Biden said the developing aid package "wouldn’t be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things.” He wants a relief bill to pass Congress now even though it would “at best only be a down payment” with more aid to come next year.

Biden's remarks followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the “basis” for discussions. The announcement appeared aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.

In other developments:

  • U.S. hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are trying to lure nurses and doctors out of retirement, recruiting students and new graduates who have yet to earn their licenses and offering eye-popping salaries in a desperate effort to ease staffing shortages.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are urging Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic.
  • U.S. health officials say staying home for the upcoming winter holidays is the best way to stay safe and protect others. But for those who ignore that advice, COVID-19 testing before and after trips is an option.
  • Britain could be dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine within days after becoming the first country in the world to authorize its use, putting the spotlight on a little-known German biotechnology company. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the start of a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination by late next week. The Sputnik V shots have yet to complete advanced studies needed to ensure effectiveness and safety.
  • A Federal Reserve survey of business conditions around the country found that economic activity in several regions slowed in November as coronavirus cases surged.
  • Several California politicians have been called out in the last month for their dining choices that violate the state's rules aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league remains committed to finishing the regular season as scheduled. Goodell also said that while the NFL is considering a bubble format for the playoffs, it wouldn't necessarily resemble what the NHL and NBA used in successfully in completing their seasons.

For more summaries and full reports, select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest numbers.

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