Pelosi says $1.3T for next coronavirus relief package 'not enough'
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Negotiations over another coronavirus relief package are set to heat up in Congress next week, but Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over which measures to include in the bill — and how much the legislation should cost.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters in Washington the package, which is slated to come just as a slew of protections put in place earlier this year for workers and businesses hurt by the virus-induced crisis expire, needs to cost more than $1.3 trillion.
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"Republican senators have approached me about individual things," Pelosi told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. "They know there's going to be a bill. And, first, it was going to be no bill, and then it was going to be some little bill. Now it's $1.3 [trillion]. That's not enough. That's not enough."
But the White House wants to limit the cost of the package at $1 trillion or less amid growing concerns among some Republican senators over the nation's ballooning deficit, a senior administration official told FOX Business.
Some Trump administration officials are concerned that if the aid package is worth more than $1 trillion, the White House risks losing pivotal support from fiscally conservative Senate Republicans who are starting to balk at the unprecedented debt and spending levels.
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In the first nine months of the fiscal year, the U.S. deficit soared to $2.7 trillion, the Treasury Department said last week. The gap between what the government spends and what it collects for fiscal 2020 is expected to hit $3.7 trillion, a record. The current record for a fiscal year deficit is $1.41 trillion, set in 2009.
Pelosi said she's spoken with Republican senators and administration officials on "individual things" and reiterated support for the inclusion of extra unemployment benefits and aid for state and local governments.
"When they say it's too expensive, how can they say such a thing when, right now, the [Federal Reserve] is just propping up the stock market? The stock market looks good, huh?" she said. "Well, federal dollars are helping to make that happen. And that's okay, and that's a good thing for the economy. But we should have trillions of dollars to prop up workers. We've never seen anything like this."
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Congress has already approved three massive stimulus packages totaling nearly $3 trillion to offset the economic pain triggered by the outbreak of the virus and subsequent lockdown.
That includes the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed into law at the end of March, which sent one-time payments of up to $1,200 to Americans; established the Paycheck Protection Program and expanded unemployment benefits by $600 per week through the end of July.
But those benefits are lapsing soon, raising fears of a "fiscal cliff" that will hurt both individual households and the economy's gradual recovery.
In less than two weeks, the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits will expire and the typical check, which varies by state, will return to below $400 per week. It will affect about 25 million Americans and drain roughly $15 billion per week from the economy, according to one estimate from the Century Foundation.
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The House is scheduled to start its recess by Aug. 3, and the Senate is expected to follow one week later. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to finish work on the next round of aid by then.
Although one of the main points of conflict appeared to be extending unemployment aid — Republicans have suggested the extra money disincentivized workers who were receiving more from the government assistance program from returning to their jobs — senior Trump administration officials opened the door this week to a potential compromise on unemployment benefits.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested the administration may replace the $600 a week in the next stimulus package with another form of unemployment assistance. However, it would cap benefits so that workers don't receive more money than they earned at their previous job.
“You can assume that it will be no more than 100 percent" of a worker's salary, Mnuchin said.
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