US Senate eyes revamped coronavirus relief bill

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Mitch McConnell and Republicans in the upper house may introduce a bill next week as standoff with the Democrats continues

by Reuters
US Senate eyes revamped coronavirus relief bill
The standoff in Washington continues over a further stimulus bill in the lead-up to the election in November. Photo: AFP. 

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration and Senate Republicans have been in regular contact over possible coronavirus relief measures and the Senate's top Republican will "hopefully" unveil a new bill next week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday.

Asked about the collapse of talks with Democrats over aid legislation, Mnuchin told Fox Business Network that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been speaking regularly with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

"Hopefully Mitch will enter new legislation next week," Mnuchin said.

No negotiations on another round of coronavirus aid have taken place since early August, when talks collapsed as Congressional Democrats and the Republican Trump administration could not bridge a gap of more than $1 trillion between their proposed relief packages for small businesses, state and local governments, school districts and healthcare providers.

Trump has signed an executive order extending expired supplemental unemployment benefits and deferring some payroll taxes, but details on implementation have been uncertain.

Mnuchin said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer "just don't want to negotiate in good faith. They've refused to meet."

"We're going to keep trying because it's too important for the American people," said Mnuchin, adding that he has been holding daily calls with McConnell and other congressional Republicans.

"Hopefully Mitch will enter new legislation next week" that will provide aid for children, jobs and liability protections for small businesses.

Mnuchin is due to testify on Tuesday before the Democrat-controlled House committee on the Coronavirus Crisis on the administration's economic response.

Concern about deficit

Republicans who control the US Senate have discussed proceeding with their own bill that would be narrower than the House's $3 trillion plan approved in May, but thus far have not introduced any new proposals. Some Republicans oppose new aid because of concern about the massive and growing budget deficit, predicted to approach $4 trillion this year.

Meadows said on Friday that Trump was willing to sign a $1.3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, up from an initial proposal of $1 trillion.

Pelosi had reduced Democrats' initial $3 trillion demand to $2.2 trillion but was insisting on the need for new funds for state and local governments, schools and coronavirus testing and tracing of infections.

(Reporting by David Lawder, Tim Ahmann and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)