Congressional efforts to pass additional coronavirus relief crept ahead Tuesday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presented a fresh Democratic proposal and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell floated a revision of his much smaller plan to fellow Republicans.
The sudden emergence of the proposals after a six-month stalemate followed evidence that surging Covid-19 cases are undermining the economic recovery as past fiscal support runs out.
President-elect Joe Biden also on Tuesday called on Congress to pass a “robust” aid bill while unveiling his economic team.
Pelosi presented the new Democratic plan to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described it as a “good faith effort” at a compromise, while refusing to say how much it cost.
Democrats had previously sought $2.4 trillion. An outline of the new McConnell plan showed it to be largely similar to a previous $500 billion bill that Democrats blocked twice this fall.
GOP leaders appeared focused on establishing a united front, with Mnuchin conferring Tuesday morning with McConnell, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. McConnell said his plan has President Donald Trump’s backing.
What’s In, What’s Out
That plan includes $333 billion in spending on assorted business subsidies including a revised version of the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as funding for schools, vaccines and agriculture and a restoration of 100% expensing of business meals for tax purposes.
It does not include a major tranche of state and local aid outside of schools sought by Democrats, but does include legal liability protections Democrats have considered to be a poison pill.
It also features a one-month extension of pandemic unemployment relief followed by a two-month phase-out — considerably stingier than Democrats have been demanding.
The outline doesn’t provide a total cost, but says some of it would be funded by using unspent money from the massive stimulus package passed in March.