WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A group of bipartisan lawmakers calling itself the Problem Solvers Caucus released a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid proposal that includes a second round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
The package also includes $500 billion for cities and states, unemployment insurance of $600 a week, increased SNAP benefits and rental assistance.
The group of House lawmakers behind the aid plan includes 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans.
The Problem Solvers Caucus says its plan is ultimately designed to bring both sides back to the negotiating table following last week’s rejection of a $500 billion aid proposal pushed by Senate Republicans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliver another round of relief. Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a morning conference call that “we have to stay here until we have a bill.” That’s according to a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity but authorized to quote her remarks.
Though the development sounds positive, it’s unclear if it could spark new talks that would result in any real action. In a period now marred by election-season political combat, the chief negotiators for each party have shown no real signs they’re ready to make a compromise. However, their public comments remain optimistic.
“I think there’s many areas of this where there is an agreement between Democrats and Republicans,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Monday interview with CNBC. “There are some areas where we have differences on the amounts. But I will continue to work on this. I told Speaker Pelosi I’m available anytime to negotiate.”
Top lawmakers and aides have offered glum assessments both publicly and privately.
Veteran Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley said it’s “sad” there will be no virus aid deal, though he also said the outlook for the economy may not be as bleak as he once thought.
“If you’d asked me two or three weeks ago I’d say very, very negative,” Grassley said. But with the job market improving and “the whole world kind of getting out of this pandemic, (this) depression, we’re in” Grassley said, there’s “a lot less of an impact than I would have thought two weeks ago.”
“What is of overwhelming importance to Democrats is keeping coronavirus alive as a political issue,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “They’d rather have no bill, zero funding and a political weapon than have a bill and allow Republicans to say that we helped Americans.”
The stalemate is politically risky for all sides heading into the fall election, and both sides accused the other of acting primarily with political calculations in mind. Democrats said GOP senators need to “check a box” and vote on any kind of relief bill before exiting Washington to campaign while Republicans said Democrats were intent on denying Republicans a political win.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.