Top White House negotiators push to cut upcoming coronavirus legislation

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows both mentioned the possibility of moving forward on a less ambitious proposal initially on Sunday in television appearances, and several aides told CNN it has become a prominent option in discussions between administration officials and Senate Republicans in recent days.

“Honestly, I see we can provide unemployment insurance, maybe retention credit to prevent people from being moved or brought back to the workplace, helping our schools,” Meadows said Sunday on ABC. This week “. “If we can do this with liability protection, maybe we propose it and pass it, because we can negotiate the rest of the bill in the coming weeks.

Factoring in the reduction in effort even before the Republicans put an offer on the table underscores how difficult the upcoming bipartisan negotiations are expected to be. One of the main reasons administration officials are considering a less ambitious effort is due to the initial meeting between Meadows and Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week , according to several officials.

“They came out of this situation significantly less optimistic that something can be done,” said an administration official.

A scaled-down proposal would focus mainly on delay issues – like unemployment benefits that expire at the end of July, as well as funding for education a few weeks before schools open. If Republicans decide to pursue the idea, it can also be used to pressure Democrats before the unemployment benefits deadline.Pelosi, however, made it clear that a multi-step approach was not on the table for Democrats. “It’s a package,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “We can’t do it piecemeal. “

White House negotiators and the staff of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent the weekend working on a range of issues with the broader GOP proposal, and the expectation is that the proposal is finally deployed Monday afternoon, according to sources and Meadows.

The proposal will represent the GOP’s opening offer, a Democrat has been waiting for months after passing his own $ 3 trillion proposal in the House in May. It will include $ 105 billion for schools, another round of direct payments to families and individuals, a second, more targeted round of forgivable small business loans, tax incentives for rehiring and upgrading workplaces to meet coronavirus concerns, and broad liability protections for businesses, schools, hospitals and associations.

McConnell planned to release the proposal last week, but administration officials raised a series of technical and sometimes, according to those involved, unnecessary issues that delayed the process and sparked discussions throughout the weekend. .

The biggest heist centered on the GOP’s proposal to remedy the expiration of federal unemployment benefits of $ 600. Administration officials and congressional staff went back and forth over the technical mechanics of implementing a scaled-down version of the delivery for days, while trying to make it equate to about 70% of a worker’s salary, as opposed to the current salary. flat rate.

It is recognized, according to an involved source, that given the disparity and often outdated nature of state unemployment systems, a transition will likely need to be put in place in order to implement benefits on a regular basis. percentage calculation. How that transition is worded, whether national or state-to-state structured, has been one of the areas that garners the most attention, according to the sources.

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