A 50-member group of House Democrats and Republicans will release a $1.52 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan Tuesday in a long-shot attempt to break a months-long deadlock on providing relief to the pandemic-battered U.S. economy.
The Problem Solvers Caucus plan, to be announced at an 11 a.m. news conference, has been developed for weeks with the knowledge of the White House and leadership from both parties, according to House aides. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has referred to the discussions and at a House hearing this month hinted that the White House could accept a $1.5 trillion level of spending.
Nonetheless, the track record of bipartisan groupings of moderates in either the House or Senate to broker major deals has not been great.
The caucus proposal offers key compromises on the two thorniest issues in the stalled talks between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration. On aid to state and local governments, the group is backing about $500 billion, splitting the difference between the $915 billion sought by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the $150 billion put forward by the White House.
On the issue of supplemental unemployment insurance, the group is backing $450 per week for eight weeks and then applies a formula for benefits capping them at 100% of previous wages or $600 per week, whichever is lower. Democrats want $600 per week while the White House, citing concerns that such an amount is a disincentive for work, has sought $300 per week.
In addition, the proposal would provide another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments for most Americans with a $500 per child benefit.
The “March to Common Ground” framework, developed by Caucus co-chairs Tom Reed, a New York Republican and Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, also contains money for Covid-19 testing, schools and childcare, small business relief. It would also link relief to economic metrics, reducing aid if the pandemic abates or extending it if it worsens.
The caucus, which is made up of equal numbers of lawmakers from each party, is officially endorsing the proposal, meaning 75% of the membership has signed onto it.
Swing district members have been the most vocal about the need to pass stimulus legislation in the face of objections from GOP deficit hawks on the one hand to a large stimulus and, on the other, opposition from progressive Democrats over settling for a small bill.
Talks between Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows broke off Aug. 7. Democrats have insisted on a $2.2 trillion stimulus and the White House has sought about $1.1 trillion.
Congress is slated to recess for the election in early October so time for a deal is running short.
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