Trump administration’s latest Covid relief offer to Democrats looming, but hurdles remain
WASHINGTON – Details of the Trump administration’s $ 1.8 trillion offer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Covid-19 relief legislation obtained by NBC News reveal they have moved closer to the Democrats’ position – but major obstacles remain.
New offering increases revenue, adds money for food, mortgage and rental assistance, increases federal pandemic response, UI, and payments amount direct to Americans.
Pelosi, D-Calif., Told his members in a letter Saturday morning that the proposal was “insufficient.”
And across Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans on Saturday expressed deep displeasure at the administration’s nearly $ 2 trillion price tag in a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief White House cabinet minister Mark Meadows, according to three sources familiar with the phone call.
Any deal would have to pass the Republican-led Senate and time is running out with just over three weeks before Election Day.
The administration’s enhanced offer comes after a week of conflicting and shifting comments from the president. After being disengaged from negotiations for months, he unexpectedly asked Mnuchin via tweet to immediately halt negotiations with Pelosi, shocking both Republicans and Democrats and allowing Democrats to blame him for the Americans failing to say. Seeing no relief, he tweeted two days later that he wanted a “big” overall bill.
Mnuchin’s $ 1.8 trillion proposal to Pelosi is not only a $ 200 billion increase from his last offer, but also includes an increase in some of the Democrats’ top preferences. It mirrors, in many ways, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus stimulus bill released during a period of stalled negotiations.
It also provides for an increase in state and local funds to $ 300 billion. It’s an agenda item Democrats have called for President Donald Trump to oppose, calling it a bailout of Democratic states. Pelosi, however, calls it “sadly inadequate.”
The administration proposes to extend federal unemployment insurance by $ 400 per week until mid-January 2021 and retroactively to September 12. Democrats are still demanding $ 600 a week.
It adds $ 15 billion for food aid, $ 60 billion for mortgage and rental assistance and $ 25 billion for student loan cancellation – all Democratic priorities.
“This proposal was a step forward, two steps back,” Pelosi wrote to its members. “When the president talks about wanting a bigger back-up plan, his proposal seems to mean he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than accepting language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the viruses and put money in the pockets of workers.
As the administration dramatically increased the amount of funding for testing, vaccine development, vaccine distribution, and vendor money – totaling $ 175 billion – Pelosi opposed the president’s allocation for a federal response to Covid-19, which it suggests that the administration has not changed in this proposal.
Some of the main sticking points revolve around helping children and families. The current proposal provides $ 150 billion for education. Democrats wanted more and they want the money to go to schools, whether they teach students in classrooms, in a hybrid setting, or at a distance. It is not known whether the administration’s latest proposal offers distinctions for funding.
Democrats demanded extension of child tax credits
Instead of an expansion of the EITC, the administration proposed to increase direct stimulus payments for children. For couples earning $ 150,000, the administration offers $ 1,000 per child, compared to $ 500.
In her letter to her colleagues, Pelosi said the administration would eliminate the refundable child tax credit and the $ 4,000 dependent tax credit she is asking for and was part of the HEROES law passed by House Democrats in May.
Pelosi also notes that the administration has still not exceeded the $ 25 billion in direct childcare assistance, which Pelosi calls “grossly inadequate.”
The administration’s offer includes $ 91 billion for an employee retention tax credit, which aims to incent employers to keep their employees on the payroll. And they are demanding corporate liability protections, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Must be included in any legislation to be presented to the Senate.
It also includes $ 10 billion in new funding for the postal service, $ 20 billion for airlines and $ 20 billion for the accommodation industry.
There is no direct funding for restaurants, however, which could be a point of contention. Instead, it offers workers the option of canceling restaurant meals while they are at work, and it changes some of the paycheck protection program loan requirements to make it more attractive to restaurants.
And in less controversial elements, the measure provides $ 300 billion for PPP loans for small businesses, including $ 135 billion of previously unallocated money from the first tranche of the program.
As negotiations continue, Senate Republicans remain an obstacle. On a conference call with Mnuchin and Meadows, they voiced their opposition to the $ 1.8 trillion relief bill currently under negotiation. They don’t like the top price or some of the policies, according to two sources whose bosses were on the call.
One of the political issues Republicans disagreed with is Democrats’ demand to extend Obamacare in the relief bill, according to another source. They say Democrats want to provide the maximum amount of the grant to anyone new to the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration is trying to overturn entirely.
Members “hated” the bill, according to one of the sources.