House Democrats are preparing a new coronavirus relief package in an effort to shake free negotiations that have been in a stalemate for nearly two months.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has instructed her committee chairs to put together a proposal that would serve as a scaled back version of earlier Democratic offers — though one that would largely align with the topline number Pelosi has held for several weeks. That topline, of $2.2 trillion, is more than $1 trillion lower than the stimulus proposal House Democrats passed in May. The Trump administration has said it would be willing to consider a proposal somewhere around $1.5 trillion — meaning even the scaled-back Democratic proposal will exceed the high-end of where Republicans have been willing to go up to this point.
The split on the topline underscores the central issue that has left negotiations moribund since early August, according to members and aides in both parties: the significant difference in views on the scope and scale of the problems that need to be addressed in a second major stimulus package. The first, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, was passed in both chambers nearly unanimously back in the spring. But since then, Republicans have urged a more targeted approach and objected to Democratic proposals to direct $915 billion to states and localities struggling with budget shortfalls due in large part to their pandemic response.
But frontline House Democrats have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks about the need to do something before the chamber breaks for the campaign season, which it is scheduled to do next week. And some freshman Democrats, who have backed a bipartisan proposal worth between $1.5 trillion-$2 trillion by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, are demanding their leadership put on the floor a bill that can become law — not a partisan bill intended to send a message.
“If it’s a messaging exercise, it’s worthless,” Rep. Dean Phillips, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, told CNN. He said a bill worth $2.4 trillion would mean Republicans would likely line up to oppose it, and House Democrats would look “very similar” to Senate Republicans who pushed a partisan bill that failed in their chamber earlier this month and was meant in part to give cover to their party.
“Many of us are getting sick of that,” Phillips said.
Pelosi, along with her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, has stressed publicly and privately for weeks the need for Democrats to remain united if and when any negotiations recommence. She made clear, in a letter