Washington — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revived negotiations Monday on another coronavirus relief measure as they seek to break the logjam that has plagued discussions on a legislative package to provide relief to those ailing from the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone Monday evening after House Democrats put forth their latest coronavirus relief measure, which would provide assistance for small businesses, schools, airline industry workers and Americans who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said the two spoke again Tuesday morning for roughly 50 minutes and discussed the provisions of the updated aid package. They agreed to talk again Wednesday, he said.
The proposal rolled out by House Democrats is a revised version of the Heroes Act, a $3.4 trillion sweeping aid package passed by the lower chamber in May. The updated proposal has a $2.2 trillion price tag and, if approved, would provide another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans, as well as $225 billion for education and $436 billion in federal aid to state and local governments.
The Democrats' measure also reinstates the additional $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits that lapsed at the end of July.
In a letter to House Democrats on Monday, Pelosi said the latest legislative proposal put forth by the caucus "serves as our proffer to Republicans to come to negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country."
"Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America's working families now," Pelosi said. "We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now."
While the Democrat-led House passed its $3 trillion coronavirus relief package in May, the measure was a non-starter for the White House and the GOP-controlled Senate, which put forth its own narrow, $1 trillion measure in late July.
The White House and Democratic leaders were at odds over the size and scope of the next coronavirus aid package, and talks between the two sides stalled in August. In response to the impasse, President Trump took a series of executive action designed to remedy the economic impacts of the crisis.
While the $2.2 trillion measure is far less than the $3.4 trillion package approved by House Democrats, Republicans resisted an offer from Democratic leaders last month to effectively meet in the middle on the cost of another relief bill. Pelosi at the time said she offered to reduce the price tag of their plan by $1 trillion if Republican added $1 trillion, though the suggestion was rebuffed by the White House.
Still, even without support from the White House, the House could proceed with a vote on the relief package as Congress continues to face pressure to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic.