WASHINGTON — A top Republican senator said Tuesday the GOP-controlled Senate will likely take up a new coronavirus stimulus bill next week, though it faces likely opposition in the Democratic-led House.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the third-ranking Republican senator, told reporters Tuesday the “goal” was to consider the “focused, targeted” COVID-19 measure.
The bill would exclude “things that (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi has put in her bill that are unrelated to coronavirus,” though the bill’s details have not been finalized yet.
The coronavirus pandemic has put millions out of work, hobbled businesses and left local governments scraping for money. Many relief programs Congress approved in the spring have since dried up, putting pressure on the House and Senate to come up with a new round of stimulus funding. But weeks of negotiations failed to result in a deal.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNBC earlier Tuesday he also expected a Republican proposal to be put forward “sometime next week.” He said the “biggest stumbling block” in negotiations over a new relief bill was funding for state and local governments that have slashed budgets amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Democratic proposal initially included about $1 trillion for state and local aid, but Meadows said the amount was not “based on reality” and said Republicans would agree to $150 billion instead. Democrats have offered to cut a trillion dollars from its $3.4-trillion package to bring its total cost down to $2.2 trillion but have maintained any package needs to include funding for state and local governments and a boost to unemployment benefits.
COVID-19 stimulus negotiations hit a stalemate in August with Democratic lawmakers and White House negotiators unable to reach a deal on even the amount of funding necessary for a relief package. Following a call with Meadows on Aug. 27, Pelosi said the two sides remained at a “tragic impasse” on a relief package, and Democrats have argued any pared-down relief proposal would not be sufficient.
Pelosi told MSNBC Monday evening Republicans “do not understand the gravity of the problem. They refuse to accept the science and what science is advising.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday he believed both sides should come to agreements on provisions of a stimulus package first before agreeing on the total cost.
“We should agree on areas where we can agree and move forward for the benefit of the American people….whether it’s 1 trillion or 1 and a half trillion, again, let’s not get caught on a number,” Mnuchin told lawmakers.
Mnuchin said there were areas of agreement on boosting unemployment benefits, school funding, stimulus checks, the Postal Service, and renewing a small business loan program, even if there were disagreements over the amount of funding needed for each provision.
The bill may even have trouble coming to a full vote in the Republican-majority Senate. The bill must first secure 60 votes in the Senate to clear a key procedural threshold setting it up for a full vote. But Republicans are doubtful a smaller package can secure that many votes. The Senate is currently split 53-47 between Republicans and Democrats, meaning seven Democrats would have to join all Republicans to vote to move the bill forward.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told reporters on Aug. 28 the smaller package would “probably will fail” to pass the procedural hurdle.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus stimulus: Senate likely to take up a COVID-19 relief bill