White House, Democrats at odds on virus aid package but talking.
WASHINGTON — Unemployment assistance, eviction protections and other relief for millions of Americans are at stake as White House officials launched negotiations late Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer on a new coronavirus aid package that’s teetering in Congress ahead of looming deadlines.
While Senate Republicans struggled to roll out their own $1 trillion proposal, Pelosi implored the White House and GOP lawmakers to stop the infighting and come to the negotiating table with Democrats. Aid runs out Friday for a $600 weekly jobless benefit that Democrats call a lifeline for out-of-work
Americans. Republicans want to slash it to $200 a week, saying that the federal bump is too generous on top of state benefits and is discouraging employees from returning to work.
“This is wrong. We have to do what’s right for the American people,” Pelosi said at the Capitol afterward.
With the virus death toll climbing and 4.2 million infections nationwide, both parties are eager for a deal. There is widespread agreement that more money is needed for virus testing, to help schools prepare to open in the fall and to shore up small businesses.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows met with Pelosi and Schumer for nearly two hours at the speaker’s office. The two top negotiators would be back at it Tuesday.
“Good meeting,” Meadows said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by top GOP chairs Monday at the Capitol, unveiled his long-awaited proposal. It provides some $105 billion to schools and colleges, the K-12 funds tilted toward campuses that reopen with in-person learning. There’s more money for virus testing, $15 billion for child care centers and benefits for businesses, including a fresh round of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program,
tax breaks and a sweeping liability shield from COVID-19-related lawsuits.
Republicans left out new money for cashstrapped states and cities, a priority for Democrats, but included another round of $1,200 direct payments to households that Democrats also support. Based on an earlier formula, people making $75,000 or less would receive the full amount, with the benefit phased out for those earning above $99,000, or double for married couples filing joint taxes.
The GOP bill also provides $1.7 billion for a new FBI headquarters in Washington, a nonpandemic-related expense that’s a top priority for the president but not for lawmakers or McConnell. Trump’s hotel is across the street from it on Pennsylvania Avenue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi