U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin walks from a meeting during negotiations on a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief package on Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2020. Joshua Roberts/Reuters
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that shared a $916 billion stimulus proposal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The proposal “includes money for state and local governments,” Mnuchin said, “and robust liability protections for businesses, schools, and universities.”
Mnuchin made no mention of new stimulus checks, but the package includes $600 payments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Bloomberg.
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The White House has offered a new $916 billion stimulus proposal that is slightly larger than the bipartisan measure currently being drafted by a centrist group of senators.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a statement issued Tuesday evening, said the measure includes “money for state and local governments,” as well as “robust liability protection for businesses, schools, and universities.”
He said he had discussed the package in a phone conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In a statement on Tuesday night, Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer noted the proposal would cut unemployment insurance spending from $180 billion in the bipartisan framework to $40 billion, calling the it “unacceptable.”
“While it is progress that Leader McConnell has signed off on a $916 billion offer that is based off of the bipartisan framework, the President’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
Mnuchin made no mention of new stimulus checks, which has been a priority for President Donald Trump for months. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, said the package includes $600 direct payments, plus an additional $600 per child.
“It’s a much better product,” McCarthy told Bloomberg, comparing it to the $916 billion proposal currently being hammered out in the Senate that does not include another round of stimulus checks. Democrats and some Republicans are stepping up their calls for direct payments in the next aid package.
Earlier in the day, The Washington Post reported that the White House was pushing Senate Republicans to include $600 stimulus checks. “While the amount is yet to be determined, direct payments to American workers continue to be a high priority of the President’s,” Ben Williamson, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement.
The Post later reported the plan did not contain any extra federal unemployment benefit. Trump previously authorized a $300 federal benefit for unemployed workers in the summer and sidestepped Congress in the process. The program set up through executive order lasted only six weeks.
The new stimulus offer from the Trump administration capped a frenzied Tuesday on Capitol Hill as lawmakers scrambled to settle major differences in another federal rescue package. Both parties appeared no closer to resolving disputes around state aid and a liability shield for firms against coronavirus-related lawsuits, two of the most contentious issues ensnaring the talks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered to set aside so they can be addressed early next year in another assistance package. The Kentucky Republican previously referred to a liability shield as a “red line” that must be passed in any relief legislation.
But Democrats rejected the overture from McConnell, warning that not aiding state and local governments could accelerate layoffs among firefighters, police officers, and other public workers. Providing assistance to them has long been a top Democratic priority.
“State and local funding is bipartisan unlike the extreme corporate liability proposal Leader McConnell made which has no Democratic support,” Schumer said at a press conference on Tuesday. He accused McConnell of attempting to “sabotage” the talks.
The window is closing for Congress to step in and prevent the expiration of numerous federal aid programs. About 12 million people could lose all their jobless aid the day after Christmas if lawmakers fail to pass a package renewing federal unemployment programs. A moratorium on evictions and federal paid sick, medical and family leave programs will also expire without congressional action.
The Democratic-led House and GOP-controlled Senate are set to approve a one-week spending bill to keep the government open until Dec. 18 and buy more time for relief negotiations. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have indicated they want to attach a relief bill to a broader government spending package.
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