White House sees path to scaled-back coronavirus aid deal with Dems

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The Trump administration is eyeing an opportunity to pass a slimmed-down coronavirus aid package in coming days as House lawmakers return to Washington for a vote on Postal Service funding, according to a top White House official.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, while speaking to reporters on Wednesday, suggested the two sides are closer to cutting a bipartisan relief deal after Speak Nancy Pelosi called back the House for a rare Saturday vote on a bill that would provide $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service.

“I think the outlook for a skinny deal is better than it’s ever been, and yet we are still not there,” Meadows told reporters on Wednesday. “If Speaker Pelosi moves forward a single bill on postal … let’s add in the things we can agree upon.”

Senate Republicans plan to renew the push for an agreement between the two sides this week with the introduction of a smaller aid package.

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The smaller GOP relief bill is expected to include $300 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits until December 27, another round of money for the Paycheck Protection Program and an additional $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service and liability protections, according to Politico, citing two GOP sources. The proposal would also allocate additional funding for schools and education.

The revised measure would represent a scaled-back version of the $1 trillion HEALS Act introduced by Republicans at the end of July. But the new proposal notably does not include a second $1,200 stimulus check for American families, unlike the HEALS Act.

One of the biggest points of contention between the parties is the cost of the proposal. Democrats have offered to come down $1 trillion from the roughly $3 trillion package the House passed in May. But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns over the nation’s growing deficit.

Meadows suggested that White House officials and  Democratic.leaders could pass a deal on “things that we can agree upon” — including funding for schools, the Paycheck Protection Program and “maybe even the stimulus checks” — before focusing on other, more divisive measures.

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Pelosi seemed to indicate support for a pared-down bill on Tuesday during a Politico Playbook event.

“We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now,” she said. “We’ll take it up again in January.” However, her spokesperson later said that she was referring to Democrats’ previous $2 trillion offer to meet Republicans halfway, “not cutting our bill in half,” according to Bloomberg News.

Still, Pelosi said the negotiators “have to try to come to that agreement now.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., predicted on Wednesday the two sides would work together to reach a deal after the Republican National Convention next week, with a deal possible after Labor Day.

“I actually think there is going to be some motive to really get down to the brass tacks right after the Republican convention,” Kaine told Politico. “It was clear the White House, for some reason, they wanted to go into their convention blaming Democrats.”

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The Senate is slated to return from recess on Sept. 8 and the House on Sept. 14.



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