Second stimulus checks: Democratic leaders reject bipartisan proposal with $1,200 direct payments

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Democratic leadership in the House rejected a bipartisan $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid proposal that includes a second round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans.

The plan, unveiled by a group calling itself Problem Solvers Caucus, also included $500 billion for cities and states, unemployment insurance of $600 a week, increased SNAP benefits and rental assistance.

A set of powerful Democratic committee chairs swung against the proposal saying it “leaves too many needs unmet” — a leadership effort that signals that the Problem Solvers bill is going nowhere.

No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the caucus had developed “useful ideas, important ideas” but said the proposal did not do enough to address the ongoing needs of helping the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

“We believe that getting to a compromise is absolutely essential,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. “Getting to a compromise that does not deal with the problems, however, is not useful, because the longer you delay addressing many of the problems, the greater you weaken both the economy and the response to COVID-19.”

The Problem Solvers Caucus, which is made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, expected their proposal to be met with resistance. Prior to releasing the plan, the group said their effort was ultimately designed to bring both sides back to the negotiating table following last week’s rejection of a $500 billion aid proposal pushed by Senate Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliver another round of relief. Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a morning conference call that “we have to stay here until we have a bill.”

Though the development sounds positive, it’s unclear if it could spark new talks that would result in any real action. In a period now marred by election-season political combat, the chief negotiators for each party have shown no real signs they’re ready to make a compromise. However, their public comments remain optimistic.

“I think there’s many areas of this where there is an agreement between Democrats and Republicans,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Monday interview with CNBC. “There are some areas where we have differences on the amounts. But I will continue to work on this. I told Speaker Pelosi I’m available anytime to negotiate.”

Top lawmakers and aides have offered glum assessments both publicly and privately.

“My sense is the clock is running out,” said Senate GOP Whip John Thune of South Dakota. “I don’t see any intention or desire on the part of the Democrat leadership at the moment — regardless of what their members are saying — to cooperate and to work together on a solution. I think they feel like they’ve got the issue and they want to try and ride it in November.”

“I hope we can get a deal. It’s really up to the president. As I said, we have agreed to come down a trillion (dollars),” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. “They come up a trillion and then we’re close, that’s very clear. And the bottom line is, they haven’t done that.”

The stalemate is politically risky for all sides heading into the fall election, and both sides accused the other of acting primarily with political calculations in mind. Democrats said GOP senators need to “check a box” and vote on any kind of relief bill before exiting Washington to campaign while Republicans said Democrats were intent on denying Republicans a political win.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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