WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — After weeks of stalled negotiations over the next round of coronavirus aid, a group of 50 bipartisan lawmakers known as the “Problem Solvers Caucus” released a $1.5 trillion proposal Tuesday that includes a second round of $1,200 payments to Americans.
The package also includes:
- $500.3 billion for cities and states
- Unemployment insurance of $600 a week
- Increased SNAP and WIC benefits
- Student loan forbearance through December 31, 2020
- $400 million to states for incremental election costs
- $100 billion for virus testing and tracing and public health
- $25 billion for mortgage and rental assistance
- $130 billion for schools
- $15 billion for the Postal Service
- An additional $500 per child payment
The Problem Solvers Caucus, made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, says its plan is ultimately designed to bring both sides back to the negotiating table following last week’s rejection of an approximately $650 billion Senate GOP plan due to Democratic opposition.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a morning conference call Tuesday that “we have to stay here until we have a bill.” That’s according to a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity but authorized to quote her remarks.
Both parties insist they want action, keeping the idea of new relief alive, but negotiations between Democrats and the White House remain frozen.
Though the development sounds optimistic, it’s unclear if it could spark new talks that would result in any real action.
“I think there’s many areas of this where there is an agreement between Democrats and Republicans,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Monday interview with CNBC. “There are some areas where we have differences on the amounts. But I will continue to work on this. I told Speaker Pelosi I’m available anytime to negotiate.”
Top lawmakers and aides have offered glum assessments both publicly and privately.
Veteran Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley said it’s “sad” there will be no virus aid deal, though he also said the outlook for the economy may not be as bleak as he once thought.
“If you’d asked me two or three weeks ago I’d say very, very negative,” Grassley said. But with the job market improving and “the whole world kind of getting out of this pandemic, (this) depression, we’re in” Grassley said, there’s “a lot less of an impact than I would have thought two weeks ago.”
“What is of overwhelming importance to Democrats is keeping coronavirus alive as a political issue,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “They’d rather have no bill, zero funding and a political weapon than have a bill and allow Republicans to say that we helped Americans.”
The stalemate is politically risky for all sides heading into the fall election, and both sides accused the other of acting primarily with political calculations in mind. Democrats said GOP senators need to “check a box” and vote on any kind of relief bill before exiting Washington to campaign while Republicans said Democrats were intent on denying Republicans a political win.
Last month, talks between Pelosi and the Trump administration broke down and there had been little optimism they would restart before Election Day.
Pelosi has maintained a hard line in negotiations and has been at odds with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She orchestrated passage of a $3.4 trillion COVID rescue package back in May, but the effort was immediately dismissed by Senate Republicans and the Trump administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.