IN CONGRESS

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY LISA MASCARO

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

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