US Republicans, Democrats at loggerheads over new coronavirus relief package

The Capitol Building is pictured on November 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (File Photo: AFP)

Republicans and Democrats in the US were at an impasse Sunday over a new $1 trillion coronavirus relief package for American taxpayers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday assailed Republican “disarray” over the new pandemic package as the White House suggested a narrower effort might be necessary, at least for now.

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Pelosi panned the Trump administration’s desire to trim an expiring temporary federal unemployment benefit from $600 weekly to about 70 percent of pre-pandemic wages.

The administration’s chief negotiators — White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — returned to the Capitol later Sunday to put what Meadows described as “final touches” on a $1 trillion relief bill Senate.

Meadows told reporters in the Capitol that the legislative proposal had a handful of issues he hoped would be resolved "in the next hours," and the package would likely be unveiled Monday afternoon. Mnuchin said the package would contain extended unemployment benefits with 70 percent "wage replacement."

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to bring the package forward Monday.

Both Mnuchin and Meadows said narrower legislation might need to be passed first to ensure that enhanced unemployment benefits don’t run out for millions of Americans. They cited unemployment benefits, money to help schools reopen, tax credits to keep people from losing their jobs, and lawsuit protections for schools and businesses as priorities.

Republicans have argued that federal benefits should be trimmed because the combination of state and federal unemployment assistance left many people better off financially than they were before the pandemic and, therefore, disinclined to return to their jobs.

Many Democrats contend that some people don’t feel safe going back to work when the coronavirus is surging again around the country.

The expiration of the $600 weekly jobless benefits boost had been propelling the Republicans to act. Democrats already approved their sweeping $3 trillion plan from Pelosi two months ago. But with millions of Americans about to be suddenly cut off from the aid, they were bracing to prevent social and economic fallout.

The White House floated plans to cut the additional aid back to $100 a week, while Senate Republicans preferred $200, with general GOP agreement about phasing out the flat boost in favor of one that ensures no more than 70 percent of an employee’s previous pay.

Apart from jobless benefits, Mnuchin said Saturday that new $1,200 direct payments would be based on the same formula from the earlier aid bill. Then, people making $75,000 or less received the full amount and those making more than $75,000 received less, depending on their income. People earning above $100,000 did not qualify for the payment.

Read more: IRS chases US prisoners who got coronavirus relief checks by mistake

The jobless benefit officially expires July 31, but due to the way states process unemployment payments, the cutoff was effectively Saturday.

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Last Update: Monday, 27 July 2020 KSA 02:33 - GMT 23:33
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