Democrats and Republicans need to resolve several disputes about what to include in a developing coronavirus relief bill as the pandemic wreaks havoc across the United States and financial lifelines are set to expire, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
Leaders in the Democratic-held House and GOP-controlled Senate acknowledge they need to approve more aid to combat the deadly disease's unabated spread while supporting the economy and educating students. But with only about two weeks until Congress plans to leave Washington for all of August, Pelosi still sees a gulf in the breadth of relief she and her Republican counterparts want to provide.
"They know there's going to be a bill. … First it was going to be no bill. And then it was going to be some little bill. Now it's $1.3 [trillion]. That's not enough," she told reporters Thursday in Washington.
The Senate aims to unveil coronavirus relief plans next week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his home state of Kentucky on Wednesday. The Republican added that "kids in school, jobs and health care are likely to be the focus of the bill."
Pelosi has pushed for another round of direct payments to individuals, and McConnell has said he is open to another stimulus check — though it remains to be seen what limits lawmakers will place on who receives money. Both leaders have called for federal funding or incentives to allow schools to reopen as safely as possible in the fall.
But the leaders appear divided on several thorny issues.
Congress has only days to prevent millions of Americans left jobless by the pandemic from seeing their income dry up, as the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit passed in March expires at the end of the month. Last week, 1.3 million people filed new jobless claims, underscoring an ongoing crisis as many businesses remain closed and states facing virus outbreaks pause or roll back plans to reopen their economies.
While Democrats want to extend the enhanced unemployment insurance, McConnell and President Donald Trump's top economic advisors want to end it as designed now because it left certain people making more money at home than they did at their jobs. It is unclear how lawmakers could craft future aid for people still struggling to cover costs after losing their jobs.
Other points of conflict Congress will need to resolve include:
While lawmakers plan to go home from the start of August through Labor Day, Pelosi said this week that she would cancel the House's August recess if needed to pass another aid bill.