White House considers unilateral action with coronavirus aid bill stuck in Congress: sources

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The Trump administration plans to take “a number of options” without Congressional approval as negotiations over the fourth coronavirus stimulus package stall between the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Fox News has learned .

A senior administration official told Fox News on Monday that the administration was considering taking unilateral action to quell the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As negotiations continue to progress at a snail’s pace, the administration is considering a number of options that might be available without legislative action from Congress,” the official told Fox News.

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At this point, it is unclear on what point the administration might attempt unilateral action, but much of the negotiations on Capitol Hill have reached an impasse over unemployment benefits.

“Those who rely on increased unemployment must be gravely concerned about the lack of progress,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News. “My recommendation would be for them to call their members of Congress and their senators and ask them why they are not willing to compromise when the White House is obviously ready to compromise.”

Meadows added: “There are two things that stand in the way of pursuing a deal on improved unemployment benefits. One is Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and the other is a negotiating tactic that puts people at risk. ”

Improved unemployment benefits, which provided an extra $ 600 per week to unemployed people, expired at the end of July. Democrats want the next package to continue the weekly payments of $ 600, but Republicans are concerned that in some cases this will cause people to raise more money than they earn from their jobs, causing them discourages returning to work when possible.

The Republican HEALS Act – which carries a price tag of $ 1 trillion versus $ 3 trillion for the Democratic HEROES Act – provides an additional $ 200 per week.

In the meantime, Republicans have offered to pursue payments of $ 600 for another week while lawmakers negotiate, but Democrats, who introduced their bill to the House in May, rejected it.

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Meadows told Fox News Democrats rejecting the week-long unemployment benefit extension were “heartless.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin noted that President Trump was “very concerned” about the expiration of unemployment benefits, adding that he was “surprised” by the Democrats’ refusal.

“They insist that this be part of a larger agreement,” Mnuchin said.

Meanwhile, Republican senators have held firm to some of their top priorities in the draft proposal, including liability protections for reopening businesses and schools.

Mnuchin defended Senate Republicans over the weekend, saying their delay in crafting a final proposal for a fourth coronavirus stimulus package was due to their review of the money already spent in the packages precedents and the fact that this money had been used before appropriating additional funds.

“We have authorized $ 3 trillion in the US economy,” Mnuchin told ABC News “This Week” Sunday. “It has never been done in the history of time.”

Mnuchin explained that precautions were needed in order to properly account for competing interests to help the American public now and to protect them from inflated debt in the future.

Republicans in the Senate unveiled their $ 1 trillion coronavirus relief bill last week, called the HEALS Act, which represents a focus on health, economic assistance, liability protection and schools. The bill is the alternative to the House’s HEROES Act, the $ 3 trillion relief bill passed in May.

The HEALS law includes $ 105 billion in school funding, more than what the House offered in its proposal, to modernize schools and universities with coronavirus precautions to open for learning on campus.

It also includes a second round of stimulus checks in the same amount of $ 1,200 as in the CARES Act, as well as a “follow-up” to the paycheck protection program to mitigate layoffs.

Liability protections would be included for everyone, from doctors and nurses, who would be protected from malpractice lawsuits, to churches, charities, businesses and schools, the majority leader noted. in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Noted. The hope is that the protections will encourage businesses to reopen without fear of spending years in court.

The bill also includes $ 16 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; $ 20 billion for the development of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics; $ 20 billion for farmers; and $ 30 billion to protect the military and defense industrial base against the virus.

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