KEY POINTS

  • Upton: If we don’t do something now, we’ll have to wait until March
  • Support growing for $908 billion federal stimulus proposal
  • Speaker Pelosi said Friday the proposal is a good starting point

Michigan’s Republican Sen. Fred Upton said Friday he was on board with a "sweet spot" proposal for $908 billion in federal stimulus dollars as Congress seeks a compromise on a relief bill.

A bipartisan group of senators dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus on Tuesday introduced a four-month emergency relief proposal that includes $908 billion in aid, including $288 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $180 billion in unemployment benefits, $25 billion in support for renters and $10 billion for child care services.

The PPP is a low-interest loan to help small businesses and others keep paying their employees during the various restrictions in place that can make normal operations difficult. The package drafted by the caucus does not reference another round of direct stimulus payments, however, it is only a proposal.

In an interview with NBC affiliate WOOD-TV 8, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Upton said he felt the measure was a compromise that could see broad-based support.

“$908 billion — not a perfect bill, that’s for sure — seems to be the sweet spot to get something done,” he said in an interview broadcast Friday.

The 50-member caucus is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Those on the Democratic side see the proposal as a starting point after originally calling for a relief package in excess of $2 trillion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for her part, said Friday the bipartisan framework delivered by the caucus could be a basis for real bicameral legislation, but stressed it was only a framework proposal at this point.

Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican that helped draft the proposal, said earlier this week the package was “getting more and more support from Republicans and Democrats."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, is said to back the bill, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put forward a watered-down $500 billion proposal.

"I believe we are getting very close to a deal," the president said Thursday.

From outside the political arena, former Democrat Rep. John Delaney of Maryland proposed a two-for-one strategy, saying stimulus checks would go out to those who agreed to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Upton, meanwhile, told the broadcaster the message from Republican leadership was to stay in Washington until the measure gets passed.

“Because if we don’t get it done in this Congress, it won’t be till March till we actually get a bill. We can’t wait. We have hospitals … all around the state, all around the country, that are 100% full. We’ve got food lines that are thousands of people long. We have the unemployment benefits, of course, expiring.”

Upton’s comments came as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 245,000 new hires in November, far less than expected. The BLS acknowledged that “the pace of improvement in the labor market has moderated in recent months.”

The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, delivered $1,200 checks to the U.S. public and supplemented state unemployment insurance payments with $600 in federal money. That support has long since expired.

Upton, himself a member of the caucus, said in a statement this week that Michigan was coming off the deadliest month for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“I hear daily from constituents who are struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “It’s time for us to step up, and our colleagues need to get behind this effort or out of the way.”

Fred Upton House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., has pushed legislation to speed up pipeline approvals while representing a district home to a major pipeline spill. Photo: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla