Washington, Oct 11 : During a call with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Senate Republicans rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of a new $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package aimed at assisting American businesses and workers affected by the pandemic, the media reported.
Informed sources told The Hill news website that during the call on Saturday, there were “significant concerns raised with the price tag” of the new package.
“There’s an openness to continue negotiating, but the current top line is an obstacle,” one of the sources told The Hill.
The $1.8 trillion figure is up from a $1.6 trillion offer from earlier this week, although it remains below the $2.2 trillion in the bill passed by the House Democrats last week, CNN said in a report.
In addition, the package also increased the amount of money it was willing to give to state and local governments from $250 billion to $300 billion and increased the amount of the direct payment per child from $500 to $1,000.
The offer was made formally on Friday afternoon by Mnuchin in a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Another informer person told The Hill news website that Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, told Meadows and Mnuchin in the call on Saturday that there was “no appetite” within the Senate Republican Conference for a $1.8 trillion bill.
According to the sources, Senator Marsha Blackburn also warned that it could be a “death knell” for the party in November, while Senator Mike Lee, who had recently tested positive for Covid-19, said the package it would cost the party support in the election and would take the focus off of the caucus’s top priority which was to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Also on Saturday, Pelosi said that the new proposal was insufficient to contain the pandemic and meet families’ needs, adding that it was “one step forward, two steps back”.
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, she said: “When the President talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honour our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers.”
In July, Republicans initially offered a $1.1 trillion package, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that up to 20 Senators could vote against it.
Fifty-two Republican senators later backed a scaled-down $500 billion bill.
Negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill on a fifth round of stimulus have dragged on since the end of July without an agreement, the Hill news website reported.
As talk stalled in August, Trump acted unilaterally, signing executive orders meant to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and offer a payroll tax referral.
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