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The White House is preparing a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief offer, according to people familiar with the discussions, partly closing the gap in negotiations with congressional Democrats as time runs short to pass any package before the election.
The White House proposal increases its previous offer by about $200 billion, but a significant distance remains between the administration and Democratic leaders on the bill’s overall price tag.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought an offer that “attempted to address” some of Democrats’ concerns, as negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) continued on the overall cost of a coronavirus relief package, her spokesman said on Twitter Friday. The pair spoke via phone, the spokesman added, in the latest in a series of start-and-stop negotiations.
Democrats last week passed a $2.2 trillion aid package, a scaled-back version of their earlier $3.5 trillion legislation. Mr. Mnuchin had previously proposed a $1.6 trillion package. The two sides have also disagreed on the contents of the bill, notably the amount of aid for state and local governments.
Any deal would face major hurdles to passage before Election Day. The Senate is focusing on confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in coming weeks. Also, even if the Trump administration and Mrs. Pelosi come to terms, many Senate Republicans oppose another major round of aid, making passing a new deal quickly difficult.
“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” President Trump said in a tweet Friday.
Mrs. Pelosi said on MSNBC on Friday that she planned to review the administration’s overall spending plan and the specific policy proposals.
“We’re anticipating some answers to some questions that we have, and we respond to some of the questions they have. That’s all in the language. You know, the devil and the angels are in the details. And so it—part of it is about money, and part of it is about policy,” she said.
White House adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that Mr. Trump had approved moving ahead with a revised stimulus offer that would include aid for small businesses and airlines, as well as checks for households.
The new offer is the latest turning point in a frenetic week, during which Mr. Trump shut down negotiations, pushed for passage of individual bills and then approved his largest offer to date to Mrs. Pelosi. It wasn’t immediately clear what changes were part of the White House’s latest offer, a central component to whether Mr. Trump will be able to strike a deal with Mrs. Pelosi.
Earlier Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said it was unclear that Congress could pass a coronavirus aid package before the election, casting further doubt on the prospects of an agreement in the coming weeks. Republicans are pushing to confirm Judge Barrett before election day, and passing a major piece of legislation without unanimous support could eat up time on the Senate floor.
“Even if an agreement is reached, and it may be, the process around it, literally the writing and all that, does take a while. The first item of priority for the Senate is the Supreme Court,” Mr. McConnell said at an event in Kentucky.
On Thursday, Mr. McConnell had said that many Senate Republicans weren’t convinced of the need for more federal aid.
“I’ve got a significant percentage of my members who think we’ve done enough and who are alarmed by the amount of national debt,” he said.
At stake is additional federal assistance for unemployed workers, small businesses, state and local governments, schools and public-health efforts to contain the virus’s spread. Congress passed and the president signed into law roughly $3 trillion in aid in the spring, a historic effort that economists have credited with forestalling some of the worst economic consequences of the pandemic.
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