Washington: The Trump administration re-entered Capitol Hill’s on-off COVID-19 negotiations on Tuesday, offering a $916 billion package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would send a $600 direct payment to most Americans.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the offer. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy added the proposal has $1,200 for couples, which is half the payment delivered by the March pandemic relief bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains at odds with Democratic leaders over the new relief. He had earlier proposed shelving a top Democratic priority — aid to state and local governments — in exchange for dropping his own pet provision, a shield against lawsuits for COVID-related negligence. Democrats angrily rejected the idea, saying McConnell was undermining the efforts of a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators and reneging on earlier statements that state and local aid would likely have to be an element of a COVID-19 relief agreement given Democratic control of the House.
Top Republicans dislike the direct payments, saying they are costly and send too much aid to people who do not need it. Democrats generally embrace the idea.
“Right now we’re targeting struggling families, failing businesses, health care workers and we don’t have a stimulus check to every single person, regardless of need,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is a leader of a bipartisan group pressing for a $908 billion pact.
The $916 billion Mnuchin offer, the separate ongoing talks among key rank-and-file senators, and the shifting demands by the White House all add up to muddled, confusing prospects for a long-delayed COVID-19 aid package, reports AP. The pressure to deliver is intense — all sides say failure isn’t an option.
McConnell said Congress will not adjourn without providing the long-overdue COVID-19 relief. He had previously said he would not put any pandemic relief bill on the floor that does not include the liability shield, which is being sought by businesses, universities, nonprofits, and others that are reopening during the pandemic.