WASHINGTON – House Democrats on Wednesday postponed voting on a $ 2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill in hopes that a deal can be reached as negotiations drag with the White House over a plan to help Americans struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote was postponed until Thursday to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House negotiators more time to discuss a possible bipartisan deal, said a Democratic aide, unable to publicly discuss internal deliberations .
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met on Capitol Hill Wednesday for their first face-to-face negotiations since August. The two sides have been at an impasse for months over the size and scope of a COVID-19 relief bill, but grassroots members have pressured congressional leaders to get some sort of deal help on polling day.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few days, we still don’t have an agreement, but we still have work to do. And we’ll see where we are, ”Mnuchin said Wednesday.
The House measure is a simplified version of legislation passed by House Democrats in May. He is expected to make it through the House, but will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have balked at a higher price for more relief.
House Democrats unveiled their 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 the vote, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, “would formalize our offer to Republicans in negotiations.”
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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.”
Many of the benefits approved by Congress in the spring to combat the economic impact of the virus have run out. 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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