WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Republicans may be preparing a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid measure to counter a $2.2 trillion proposal unveiled Monday by Democratic leadership.
According to a report from Politico’s Jake Sherman, the Trump administration is likely to present a plan in the neighborhood of the $1.5 trillion package proposed two weeks ago by the Problem Solvers Caucus. The amount of that measure has been loosely endorsed by President Donald Trump.
“I like the larger amount,” Trump said after the bipartisan proposal was released. “Some of the Republicans disagree but I think I can convince them to go along with that, I like the larger number. I want to see people get money, it wasn’t their fault that this happened.”
According to Sherman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met for nearly an hour Tuesday morning in hopes of finding common ground. This came hours after House Democrats unveiled a scaled-back $2.2 trillion aid measure in an attempt to boost long-stalled talks on COVID-19 relief.
The big question: Is Pelosi willing to budge by $800 million?
When asked if she’d come down from her current position of $2.2 trillion, Pelosi told CNN’s Manu Raju her figure is “what meets the needs of the American people.”
The latest Pelosi-backed measure would send a second round of $1,200 direct payments to most individuals and revive a $600-per-week pandemic jobless benefit. It would scale back an aid package to state and local governments to a still-huge $436 billion, send a whopping $225 billion to colleges and universities, and deliver another round of subsidies to businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.
The proposal represents a cutback from a $3.4 trillion bill that passed the House in May, but remains well above what Senate Republicans are willing to accept. Republicans have endorsed staying in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.
“We’ve come down $1 trillion, and they need to come up because we have to crush this virus,” Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC. “It takes money to crush the virus. It takes money to make the schools safe. It takes money to put money in people’s pockets.”
Pelosi said during an interview with CNN Sunday that she expects her conversations with the Trump administration are in “good faith.”
“I trust Secretary Mnuchin to represent something that can reach a solution, and I believe we can come to an agreement,” Pelosi said.
Talks over the summer broke down in acrimony and name-calling, and conversations this month haven’t produced visible progress. Even if the rival sides could agree on a “top line” figure from which to negotiate details, dozens of difficult issues would remain to be sorted out.
For instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is insisting that a liability shield against potential lawsuits brought against businesses, schools and universities that reopen during the pandemic be part of the legislation. Pelosi opposes the idea and didn’t include it in Monday’s legislation.
Democrats say the purpose of the new draft legislation is to show good faith and spark a more meaningful round of talks. But it also comes after party moderates and “front line” lawmakers in swing districts protested that Democratic leaders were being too inflexible.
Pelosi’s office has said she’s considering putting the new measure up for a floor vote if talks this week with the Trump administration prove fruitless.
“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now,” Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues. “We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.