- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

House Democrats postponed the vote set for Wednesday night on their $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, giving negotiators a bit more time to try to hammer out a deal that can make it to President Trump’s desk.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin spent more than an hour Wednesday afternoon negotiating on a bipartisan comprehensive COVID-19 relief deal. If they can’t reach one on Thursday, the Democrats’ bill could get a vote later that day.

“We made a lot of progress over the last few days, we still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do. And we’re gonna see where we end up,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters.

The House was expected to pass the Democrats’ latest offer that would reauthorize the small business Paycheck Protection Program, provide another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, $225 billion for education, $57 billion for child care, $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and tracing, and relief for the hard-hit airline and restaurant industries.

While the Democrats’ offer remained in the $2 trillion range, Mr. Mnuchin said he came in with an offer similar to the bipartisan proposal put forth by the Problem Solvers Caucus.

That package has a price tag between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion, because of a provision that includes automatic triggers based on hospitalization rates and vaccine development that could adjust the final cost.

It also includes increased food assistance benefits and $436 billion in state, local, and tribal government funding. It would ramp up federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration worker protections, provide $3.6 billion for election resources and restore the $600-a-week boosted unemployment payments.

Many House Democrats, particularly those in tough swing districts, have been pushing party leaders since August to put another relief bill to a vote before the Nov. 3 elections. However, several were wary of supporting any legislation that might be one-sided.

The House bill won’t go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissing it as “unserious.” He also said it was “outlandish” to think Republicans would agree to such a high price tag.

“House Democrats are trying to save face by introducing yet another multitrillion-dollar far-left wish list with virtually all the same non-COVID-related poison-pills as their last unserious bill,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “If they continue to refuse to get serious, then American families will continue to hurt.”

He specifically argued that the Democrats aren’t spending enough new money on small business loans or funding for police departments and criticized the lack of liability protections for businesses.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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