Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he presented a new US$916 billion ($1.22 trillion) Covid-19 relief proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the first move by the Trump administration since Election Day to break a months-long standoff.
Mnuchin said in a tweeted statement that he had conferred with Republican congressional leaders on the plan, as well as President Donald Trump. He said that he spoke with Pelosi at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“This proposal includes money for state and local governments and robust liability protections for businesses, schools and universities,” Mnuchin said in his statement. Those two issues have been the two key roadblocks in bipartisan talks on a US$908 billion proposal put forth last week.
“It’s a much better product” than the US$908 billion option, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said in an interview. “I don’t see a reason why Pelosi should be opposed,” he said. He added that he backed the plan 100%.
The Mnuchin plan includes stimulus checks, something that members of both sides of the aisle have favoured -- including President-elect Joe Biden and Trump. There’s US$600 per qualifying adult, with another $600 per child, according to McCarthy.
Those checks would be in place of the US$300 a week temporary supplementary unemployment benefits included in the bipartisan proposal. The proposal does extend two other expiring Unemployment insurance programs one for gig workers and the other for workers who have exhausted their 13 weeks of standard benefits.
The administration’s new approach also has US$160 billion for aid to state and local authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter. That’s on the face of it the same scale of help as in the US$908 billion bipartisan plan. Another US$100 billion goes for education funding, the person said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier Tuesday had floated the idea of setting aside the two toughest elements in a final 2020 aid package -- something Democratic leaders quickly rejected. Mnuchin’s plan ties state and local aid together with liability protections so they can either be removed or stay in together, according to McCarthy.
Asked about Mnuchin’s plan, a spokesman for McConnell said the leader has no further remarks beyond his statement earlier Tuesday.
Liability protections have been a key priority for McConnell, but opposed by Democrats. Republicans, meantime, have criticized helping states as an improper bailout.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, called Mnuchin’s move “a step in the right direction” and said “I think this plane is going to get landed.” Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said earlier Tuesday that Democrats viewed stimulus checks as needed to be added to the US$908 billion bipartisan package, and not replace other elements -- in the way the Mnuchin plan has done.
Mnuchin said that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had “reviewed” the US$916 billion proposal with Trump, McConnell and McCarthy.
Schumer in his earlier comments said that leaving out state and local aid would hurt essential workers across the nation, including police officers and firefighters, who face job losses. He accused McConnell of “pulling the rug out” from under the bipartisan group of lawmakers working on the US$908 billion plan. Schumer and Pelosi had backed that framework as a basis for negotiations.
While Mnuchin had led talks for weeks with Pelosi on a stimulus deal before Election Day, the administration thereafter largely left it to McConnell to deal with Democrats on the matter. The Senate majority leader has repeatedly called for support for his own, smaller and more targeted proposal. He also refrained from endorsing the bipartisan pitch as a base for talks even as some GOP members warmed to the idea.