The White House has started informal talks with Republicans and Democrats in Congress about what to include in another round of coronavirus relief legislation.
At the same time, Democrats have crafted a $1.2 trillion-plus package without input from the administration or Hill Republicans, Axios reported Monday, citing Congresional sources.
House Dems may bring their phase 4 coronavirus relief package — aka CARES 2 — to the floor for a vote as early as this week.
But it’s going nowhere, at least for now, according to the website.
Republicans say they are still waiting for billions of aid allocated in the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act to be spent before considering an additional package.
The dueling comes as more than 80,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, and US unemployment has surged to 14.7 percent, a level last seen when the country was in the throes of the Depression
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Kevin Hassett, one of President Trump’s top economic advisers, said the unemployment rate could rise to somewhere “north of 20 percent” in May or June, even as the commander in chief urges more states to reopen to fire up the economy.
Despite the predictions that their package will be DOA in Congress, House Dems see their plan as a way highlight their priorities and prod Republicans and Team Trump toward more economic relief individuals, state and local governments, and the US Postal Service.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus also want to show voters that they’re still on the job, despite members remaining in their districts.
Their legislation, which is still being written and is subject to change, according to Axios, is expected to include:
About $1 trillion for state and local governments, which many state and local officials say are going broke as their spending soars to deal with the outbreak.
Roughly $25 billion to keep the US Postal Service in business.
Expanded food and other nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and a continuation of increased unemployment insurance payouts, which are set to expire at the end of July.
Another round of direct payments to all Americans to juice spending.
House leaders also want to narrow down the guidelines for how the funds are allocated to ensure that people aren’t “double dipping” into the different sources of money, a senior Democratic aide told Axios.
For example, they don’t want someone who is getting increased unemployment money to also get cash through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“We’re trying to limit the amount of overlap so people aren’t abusing the system,” the aide said.
The package will not include liability protection for businesses that reopen and whose workers catch the virus as a result, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says is a top priority for the GOP.
It also will not include a payroll tax cut, something Trump has championed, but which Democrats say will never happen.
Administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, said they were holding discussions with lawmakers on issues including potential aid to states.
Hassett said future legislation could also include food aid to help Americans struggling with hunger amid widespread job losses.
It also could include broadband access for those who lack it, Hassett added.
But the White House signaled it is in no hurry to pass another relief bill.
“Let’s take the next few weeks,” Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday.”
“We just want to make sure that before we jump back in and spend another few trillion of taxpayers’ money that we do it carefully,” Mnuchin said.
“We’ve been very clear that we’re not going to do things just to bail out states that were poorly managed.”
Kudlow said he took part in a Friday conference call with House lawmakers from both parties, and plans to do the same on Monday with members of the Senate, which is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.
“If we go to a phase-four deal, I think that President Trump has signaled that, while he doesn’t want to bail out the states, he’s willing to help cover some of the unexpected COVID expenses that might have come their way,” Hassett said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”