Republicans, Democrats face tough talks on coronavirus relief as deadline looms

Andrew Cummings
July 28, 2020

The White House floated plans to cut the additional aid back to $100 a week, while Senate Republicans preferred $200, with general GOP agreement about phasing out the flat boost in favour of one that ensures no more than 70 per cent of an employee's previous pay.

The House passed the HEROES Act back in May to help front-line workers, which would cost $3 trillion.

So why do Democrats want to continue the $600 federal weekly top-up?

Additionally, the GOP proposal would provide another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments to most Americans, funding for US schools that meet "minimum opening requirements", and $16 billion for coronavirus testing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who unveiled the roughly $1 trillion package on Monday, initially said he didn't believe the money for the Federal Bureau of Investigation construction was in the legislation.

Some low-wage workers are making more collecting those federally enhanced unemployment benefits than they were before they were laid off. It would be gradually phased out for people with taxable income up to $99,000; those above that income level would be ineligible for payments.

Republican leaders don't want Mnuchin to meet with Pelosi without other White House officials or GOP lawmakers or staff present, the people said. "Democrats don't sound like a party willing to accept the GOP proposal", Zeller writes.

McConnell also said there would be a supplement to unemployment benefits.

The legislation will exclude the payroll tax cut President Trump had demanded, which Senate Republicans opposed.

"We're prepared to discuss this", Representative Steny Hoyer, the no. 2 House Democrat, said on CNN.

Congress is slated to begin its recess August 7, leaving negotiators a mere two weeks to wrap up negotiations and potentially send a bill to Trump's desk.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday predicted that half of the Senate Republican majority would oppose a final bipartisan agreement, essentially undercutting McConnell in the negotiations and giving Senate Democrats new leverage since their votes will be critical for passage. Republican senators and the White House are at odds over various items, including how to cutback the jobless benefit without fully doing away with it. Meadows said as the White House was "looking for clarity" on a "handful" of remaining issues with Republicans, but they had yet to talk to McConnell. "But are they willing to take nothing, then, if Republicans refuse to move their way, and if it means millions of constituents will suffer?"

"What they're saying to essential workers, 'you have to go to work because you're essential". Congress ultimately made a decision to have the federal government add a flat $600-per-week to every jobless worker's state unemployment benefits - creating a system that in some cases paid the unemployed more than what they had received while working.

The National Assn. of State Workforce Agencies, which represents governments administering unemployment insurance in all 50 states, said that for most states, it would take eight to 20 weeks to program and implement a system in which agencies paid a certain percentage of replacement wages for each individual worker.

The bill includes money to design and build a new Washington, D.C. headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation - a project that has been debated for years and something President Trump said last week was needed because the existing building, located across the street from one of his family's hotels, is in disrepair.

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