Wires

UPDATE 5-U.S. lawmakers await Trump nod on coronavirus aid package

David Morgan, Richard Cowan and Andy Sullivan

(Adds Pelosi to speak)

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - An economic aid package to limit the damage from the coronavirus hung in the balance on Friday as Republican lawmakers sought approval from President Donald Trump before signing off on the measure.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, had previously said they were close to an agreement after negotiating through the night with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump's point person on the issue.

But Republicans have yet to commit, and without their support the measure could stall out in Congress. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to the White House on Friday to find out whether Trump would support it. He did not comment when he returned to the Capitol.

Its always good to hear what the president thinks, said Representative Tom Cole, a prominent House Republican.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office said she would make a statement at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), one hour before Trump is due to announce a national emergency, which would free up funds to tackle the problem.

The two sides are trying to hammer out an agreement on an economic aid package to follow the $8.3 billion Congress approved last week for vaccines and other disease-fighting measures.

Mnuchin has proposed a variety of tax breaks, while Pelosi's Democrats have called for expanding the safety net to help those who may lose work as schools close, sports arenas sit empty and airlines cancel flights. More than 5,000 people across the globe have died so far.

People are dying and we have to stop dawdling," said Representative Nita Lowey, who oversees federal spending as chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans in the House and Senate have balked at many of the Democrats' proposals, particularly their proposal to provide paid leave for employees.

Trump has called for a $1 trillion payroll tax cut, which has drawn little enthusiasm from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The latest version, which circulated among lawmakers and lobbyists on Friday, scaled back an initial Democratic proposal to specify that any expanded safety-net programs would only last for the duration of the crisis.

It would prevent the Trump administration from imposing new work requirements during the crisis that would affect childless adults who get government help paying for groceries, according to a text seen by Reuters. That requirement, due to kick in on April 1, would affect 700,000 people.

It would also provide free testing for the virus.

Any package will not reach Trump's desk until next week at the earliest. The Republican-controlled Senate postponed a planned recess and will return on Monday, but has left town for the weekend.

Senators would be under pressure to pass the measure quickly if it gains bipartisan support in the House.

Without Republican support, Democrats say they will move forward with their own package. But that would be far less likely to be approved by the Senate and sent on for Trumps signature.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone said he expected a vote later on Friday.

"I can say there will be a vote, he told reporters.

(Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)