WASHINGTON – House Democrats to vote Wednesday night on a $ 2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, the latest attempt at a rescue plan as negotiations drag on with the White House over a bipartisan deal to help Americans grappling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal, a lean version of legislation passed by House Democrats in May, will likely pass the House, but will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have hesitated at a higher price for more relief.
House Democrats unveiled the proposal on Monday, although House Republicans criticized the bill as a “socialist wish list” and said they would oppose it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Told reporters on Wednesday that it would be “bizarre” to think Republicans would agree to a $ 2 trillion bill, although ‘he said he and other Republicans wanted to see relief for Americans.
“I mean we had 52 out of 53 Republicans willing to spend about half a trillion dollars,” McConnell added of a reduced $ 300 billion bill that was blocked in the Senate. “The idea that Senate Republicans would go up to 2.2 trillion is bizarre.”
Pelosi said in a statement that Wednesday night’s vote “would formalize our offer to Republicans in negotiations.”
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Following meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, including his first face-to-face meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi since August, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters: “We’ve made a lot of progress in recent days , we still do not agree. , but we still have work to do. And we’ll see where we are. “
When asked if he would be able to negotiate a deal worth over $ 1.5 trillion, Mnuchin said, “We’re going to go back and do a little more work again.”
The stalemate in negotiations comes as many of the benefits previously approved by Congress have already exhausted. The $ 600 federal unemployment benefit boost ended in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines have warned of massive layoffs as their billions of dollars in Federal payroll assistance expired Oct. 1.
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“Tomorrow, tens of thousands of airline workers will be made redundant if the program is not extended,” Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, said in a statement.
Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on a stimulus deal despite months of negotiations. Talks collapsed in August, leading President Donald Trump to sign several executive orders on aid for COVID-19. However, Trump’s orders do not relate to a number of programs that ended over the summer.
The latest proposal from House Democrats would include a series of $ 1,200 relief checks, re-authorize a small business loan program, reduce the $ 600 federal boost to unemployment benefits until January, and provide a aid to the airline industry.
The invoice includes:
- $ 225 billion for education funding, including $ 182 billion for K-12 schools and about $ 39 billion for post-secondary education.
- 120 billion dollars in subsidies for restaurants.
- $ 436 billion in aid to state, local and tribal governments.
- $ 75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation measures.
- $ 15 billion in funding for the US Postal Service.
- Increase in food assistance benefits.
Among the sticking points in the negotiations is the amount of unemployment benefit, which Republicans say could discourage work if the amount is too high. Democrats offered $ 600 in their proposals, while Republicans offered $ 200 and $ 300 in other proposals.
The two sides also remain very distant on the amount of aid to be given to state and local governments. Republicans are reluctant to increase the deficit and say the money would bail out poorly managed local governments.
Contributor: Christal Hayes
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