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Mnuchin to present counteroffer on COVID relief bill in meeting with Pelosi

Mnuchin to present counteroffer on COVID relief bill in meeting with Pelosi

Washington — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday afternoon to present the Trump administration’s coronavirus relief proposal, according to a Democratic aide, after House Democrats unveiled their own revamped $2.2 trillion package earlier this week.

Mnuchin and Pelosi met for around an hour and a half, and then Mnuchin went to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

“Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue,” Pelosi said in a statement after the meeting. “We will be proceeding with our vote tonight on the updated HEROES Act in order to formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”

The House passed a $3.4 trillion proposal called the HEROES Act in May, but Republicans have refused to consider the bill in the Senate. Democrats in the Senate blocked a Republican proposal that cost $500 billion, arguing that it was inadequate.

On Monday, House Democrats unveiled a revised version of the HEROES Act that would cost around $2.2 trillion. The updated HEROES Act would also include a round of direct payments to American families, and a $600 weekly benefit in addition to unemployment insurance. The bill has provisions to provide $225 billion for education and $436 billion in federal aid to state and local governments.

Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC earlier Wednesday that he was “hopeful” a deal could be reached.

“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,” Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin said his proposal would resemble the framework that the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus put forward earlier this month, which carried a price tag of around $2 trillion. Pelosi and several House committee leaders rejected that plan, arguing that it “falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.” The Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposal included another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans, a $450 benefit on top of unemployment insurance and more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

However, McConnell said Wednesday that the $2 trillion proposal by Democrats was “too high” and “outlandish,” indicating that he would not support this legislation either.

Mnuchin and Pelosi were involved in unsuccessful negotiations for a COVID-19 relief bill over the summer. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were willing to lower their proposal by $1 trillion if Republicans raised theirs by $1 trillion, meaning that they would support legislation that would cost around $2 trillion. It is unclear if House Democrats would be willing to consider a proposal by Mnuchin that costs under $2 trillion.

Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed negotiations over a coronavirus proposal earlier this week.

Some House Republicans have also been rankled by what they see as backroom deal-making to craft any legislation.

“Classic swamp… I am hearing from K Street of a ‘deal’ between Mnuchin and Pelosi. Just like you learned how bills become a law, huh? This is not ‘draining the swamp,’ this IS the swamp… and hopefully @realDonaldTrump will rein in Mnuchin,” GOP Congressman Chip Roy tweeted on Wednesday morning.

If Pelosi and Mnuchin do come to an agreement, the bill would have to pass the House by the end of the week, as members of Congress will be returning to their districts to campaign for the remainder of October. It is unclear whether such legislation would be approved in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Kimberly Brown contributed to this report.

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