By Erik Wasson - Bloomberg News
Senate Republicans said Tuesday that they will introduce and set up a floor vote on a slimmed-down virus stimulus bill in an effort to break a month-long impasse on aid for the U.S. economy.
The bill, expected to feature some of the aspects of a $1 trillion proposal put forth by Republicans a month ago, is expected to cost $500 billion to $700 billion.
"The Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent health-care, education and economic issues. It does not contain every idea our party likes," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week."
Senate Democrats are expected to block the bill, which would need 60 votes to pass under Senate filibuster rules.
Even so, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has talked with a handful of moderate Democrats in recent weeks, said Tuesday he was optimistic public pressure would push lawmakers into a compromise in the coming two weeks. He said the smaller package could serve as a "foundation" for further COVID-19 relief.
"There is a groundswell of support among rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans to suggest that there is some kind of compromise," Meadows said in an interview with Fox Business News.
An earlier draft of the Republican bill would have provided a $300-per-week unemployment benefit enhancement, $105 billion for schools, a $10 billion grant to the U.S. Postal Service, funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, $45 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for vaccines and testing needs and liability protections for employers.
It didn't include another round of $1,200 checks to individuals — something that President Donald Trump wants — or any aid to state and local governments, a key demand of Democrats.
"The stumbling block is aid to state and local governments," Meadows said Tuesday, reiterating his opposition to the Democrats' proposal for almost $1 trillion in aid for regional authorities that have seen their revenues devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.
McConnell worked for weeks to get most of his 53 Republicans on board with the plan in the face of opposition from deficit hawks concerned about adding to this year's $3.3 trillion budget deficit. His move comes as talks on a stimulus package between the White House and Democrats continue to be an impasse.
The two sides have been more than $1 trillion apart since negotiations broke off Aug. 7.
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