WASHINGTON, D.C. (News Nation) — Congress returns to Washington on Monday with Democratic and Republican leaders agreeing that they need to pass something to alleviate the toll of the coronavirus pandemic. The debate is expected to be how much to spend. Right now, lawmakers are $2 trillion apart on what that something should be, Reuters reports.
In the 12 weeks since President Donald Trump signed into law the last of the $3 trillion so far committed to the crisis, COVID-19 has continue to spread in the United States. There have been more than 137,000 U.S. deaths.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who previously resisted another round of coronavirus relief, has floated the idea of a $1 trillion bill focusing largely on protecting businesses and schools from liability lawsuits as they reopen after suspending operations because of the pandemic.
The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives is pushing a far more extensive, and expensive, response. House Democrats in May passed a $3 trillion bill that included funds for struggling state and local governments and more direct payments to families, which McConnell rejected.
While the two sides appear to be divided on the amount to spend and what to spend it on, McConnell said earlier this week: “I do think we’ll get there and do something that needs to be done.”
Time is tight. Extended unemployment benefits for the more than 30 million Americans out of work during the crisis are scheduled to end July 31.
The two-week summer session may be lawmakers’ last chance to pass a major bill this year, with a pending election in November.
“How many times have we had to say in the course of this pandemic: ‘We’re at a critical moment?’ We really are in an even more critical moment now,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference this week.
Aid to schools, including those in impoverished neighborhoods, and other measures to stimulate a staggering economy are all issues up for debate.
On Thursday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a $350 billion investment plan. It includes money for minority communities to bolster childcare, healthcare, housing and training for coronavirus-related jobs such as contact tracing and administering tests.
Schumer’s initiative comes partly in response to nationwide protests across the United States this summer over police violence against Black Americans and economic disparity.
Republicans have been blocking Democrats’ call for a $1 trillion aid package to state and local governments.
President Donald Trump has expressed support for a payroll tax cut. As of now, Congressional leaders haven’t announced support for that idea. There are also disagreements over continuing a small-business loan program, and Democrats want to help the poor avoid evictions from their rental homes.
Lawmakers from both sides have called for another round of direct payment checks to individuals and families.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.