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Pelosi, Schumer blast $916B White House coronavirus relief proposal

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer late Tuesday rejected a Trump-backed $916 billion coronavirus relief proposal that was offered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said the plan proposes a $600 direct payment for individuals and $1,200 for couples, which is half the payment delivered by the March pandemic relief bill, the Associated Press reported.

In a joint statement, Schumer and Pelosi described it as progress that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., endorsed the cost of the package, but they signaled that the proposal was obstructing bipartisan negotiations already underway among lawmakers. The Democratic leaders also made clear that the reduction in unemployment benefits from what’s on the table is something they could never support.

“The President’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan Members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable,” they said.

Mnuchin said he had spoken to Pelosi on behalf of President Donald Trump and presented the plan, which he said is larger than the $908 bipartisan proposal.

“This proposal includes money for state and local governments and robust liability protections for businesses, schools and universities,” Mnuchin said. “As part of this proposal, we will fund it using $140 Billion in unused funds from the Paycheck Protection program and $429 Billion in Treasury funds.”

The White House proposal came as McConnell suggested to lawmakers negotiating the bipartisan plan that they set aside the two most contentious parts of their talks — aid to state and local governments and a liability shield for employers. Schumer and Pelosi, however, rejected that approach.

Meanwhile, a group of progressive Democratic Senators led by Bernie Sanders demanded that another round of $1,200 checks be added to the plan, with the overall price tag being $300 billion. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said Tuesday that he spoke to Trump over the weekend about adding stimulus checks to the package.

The bipartisan framework does not include direct stimulus payments.

The latest developments come as Congress is expected to take up a government spending measure that will extend the funding deadline by one week, to Dec. 18, to buy more time for these bipartisan negotiations.

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