House Unveils New Stimulus Package as Pelosi and Mnuchin Resume Talks

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The moves appeared to be the most concrete action toward more economic aid since negotiations stalled nearly two months ago, but the sides remain far apart on price and short on time.

Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Emily Cochrane

Sept. 28, 2020

WASHINGTON — Negotiators resumed talks on Monday over a coronavirus relief package in a final bid to revive stalled negotiations as House Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that would provide aid to American families, businesses, schools, restaurants and airline workers.

The release of the legislation came minutes before Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, spoke by phone Monday evening, as the pair seeks to end the impasse over another coronavirus relief package. The two agreed to speak again on Tuesday morning, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi.

The moves appeared to be the most concrete action toward another stimulus bill since negotiations stalled nearly two months ago. But the sides remain far apart on an overall price tag, and with just over a month before Election Day, lawmakers and aides in both chambers warned that the time frame for striking a deal was slim.

Absent an agreement with the administration, the House could vote as early as this week to approve the legislation, responding to growing pressure for Congress to provide additional relief and quelling the concerns of moderate lawmakers unwilling to leave Washington for a final stretch of campaigning without voting on another round of aid. But at roughly $1 trillion more than what Mr. Mnuchin has signaled the White House is willing to consider, the package is likely just a starting point, all but guaranteed to be rejected by the Republican majority in the Senate should the House pass it in its current form.

To slim down the new measure, which contains many of the provisions House Democrats included in their initial $3.4 trillion legislation that they approved in May, lawmakers curtailed how long some provisions would last. They slashed their original proposal of nearly $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments in half, and cut the aid for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service to $15 billion from $25 billion.

But Democrats maintained a provision that would revive a lapsed $600 enhanced federal unemployment benefit and another provision that would send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans. And some measures they either added or expanded: $225 billion for schools and $57 billion for child care, an extension of an expiring program intended to prevent the layoffs of airline workers through March 31, and the creation of a $120 billion program to bolster restaurants, which have been among the hardest-hit industries in the pandemic’s economic carnage.

“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 right now,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to her caucus. “We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now.”

The cost remains far above that of a plan that Senate Republicans coalesced around this month that would allocate $350 billion in new funds and repurpose existing funding already approved by both Congress and President Trump. They failed to advance it over resistance from Democrats, who dismissed the measure as inadequate.

But the new plan’s price tag is significantly less than the House’s $3.4 trillion measure from May, which Ms. Pelosi had previously used as the opening bid in negotiations. With mounting signs that the country’s economic recovery is stalling and rising public pressure from moderate Democratic lawmakers to act, Ms. Pelosi directed her top lieutenants to create the smaller package that could serve as the foundation for continuing talks.

“With families, businesses and local communities truly hurting from the impacts of this health and economic crisis, it’s unconscionable for Congress to go home without taking action,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey. “Right now, there’s a huge amount of support from both sides of the aisle to finally get a new relief package over the finish line, and I’m hopeful that the legislation being announced today can help get the House and Senate to come to an agreement and that the president can sign it into law as soon as possible.”

After negotiating an agreement early last week to avoid a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin agreed to resume conversations surrounding a broader relief package.

“I think we can find our common ground, and we’re ready when he comes back,” Ms. Pelosi said on MSNBC early Monday, before her call with Mr. Mnuchin. “We’re ready to have that conversation, but he has to come back with much more money to get the job done. So, I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.”

Mr. Mnuchin, along with Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, has repeatedly urged Congress to provide more economic aid, with programs and funding approved in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law in March continuing to expire. But some Senate Republicans and some White House officials have warned against adding to the nation’s debt with another sweeping package, even as many economists have warned it is necessary to ensure a swift recovery from the economic toll of the pandemic.

“If Democrats are willing to sit down, I’m willing to sit down any time for bipartisan legislation in the Senate,” Mr. Mnuchin said in testimony this month before the Senate Banking Committee. “Let’s pass something quickly.”

The legislation unveiled on Monday would also delay deadlines for both the collection of census data and the submission of redistricting data to Congress, which the White House has been trying to speed ahead on and resisted including in the stopgap funding bill. It would provide $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, offer funds for rental assistance, require a federal standard for worker protections against the coronavirus and revive a lapsed popular program for small businesses.

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