- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

House Democrats are preparing to vote as soon as Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief package, though a deal with the White House is still in limbo.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin will continue negotiations to reach a bipartisan agreement. The two were about $1 trillion apart Wednesday morning.

“Negotiations are ongoing and we will be informed by those negotiations as to when we move forward. Hopefully, today, we get a very substantive offer that will be acceptable,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said.

“We are still at this last minute, and I stress at this last minute, hopeful that we could get a bill,” he added.

The Democrats’ proposal reauthorizes small business paycheck protection, provides another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. It also includes $225  $57 billion for child care, $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and relief for the airline and restaurant industries.

The bill also includes several top Democratic priorities: Increased food assistance benefits, $436 billion in state, local and tribal government funding, increased OSHA worker protections, and restores the $600-a-week boosted unemployment payments.

Mr. Mnuchin, meanwhile, is coming 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, depending on provision that includes automatic triggers based on hospitalization rates and vaccine development that could adjust the final cost.

“I say we’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” MR. Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC. “I think there’s a reasonable compromise here.”

Many Democrats have been pushing party leaders since August to put another relief bill to a vote before the election.

The last time any sort of COVID-19 relief package passed either chamber was in May, when the House passed a $3.4 trillion package.

Mr. Mnuchin arrived Wednesday afternoon to speak with Mrs. Pelosi in person, while White House chief of staff Mark Meadows met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

“I don’t think today needs to be the drop-dead deadline. But there are enough numbers and facts … to discuss that,” Mr. Meadows told reporters. “I’ve seen substantial movement, yes, and certainly the rhetoric has changed.”

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

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