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WASHINGTON — As the coronavirus crisis worsens across the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are expected to meet with President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the White House on Monday to discuss another aid package.
In an interview on Sunday with Fox News, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that negotiations will “start in earnest” on Monday.
July 19, 202001:43
“I know that Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy will be coming into meet with the president and Steven Mnuchin, who’s leading it from our side, to actually start to fine tune it,” he said.
Negotiations over another comprehensive aid package have been stalled on Capitol Hill for months. House Democrats passed their own $3 trillion proposal in May, but Senate Republicans have not taken up the legislation and they have not yet rolled out their own plan.
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The White House is focused on expediting vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus, keeping people employed and bringing back manufacturing from overseas, Meadows said Sunday. The Trump administration has been coordinating with McConnell and other Republicans on a new aid measure, but those talks hit a snag over the weekend over funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as testing and tracing.
Senate Republicans are pushing back against a White House attempt to block billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and tracing contacts of individuals infected with the coronavirus, two Republican sources told NBC News Sunday.
News of the White House push to block the funding was first reported by The Washington Post.
Reacting to the reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday, "What we heard over the weekend that the White House was thinking about no more testing. That defied … that goes beyond ignorance. It's just beyond the pale."
It’s a disagreement that underscores the worsening fracture between a president who wants to downplay the seriousness of the crisis and a Republican Party that sees its grip on power slipping away in the face of a failure to contain the virus, with testing and tracing key to any successful push to get the spread under control.
Another likely sticking point in negotiations is a payroll tax holiday that Trump has insisted should be part of any package. Senate Republicans have repeatedly rejected that proposal as too expensive and not helpful to the people who need it, and sources said Sunday that reality has not changed.
McConnell is also planning to push for a liability protection provision in the upcoming aid bill that would offer protections for schools, colleges, charities, businesses and frontline health care workers and employers who follow public health guidelines, according to a summary of the proposal obtained by NBC News.
Democrats, meanwhile, have opposed the liability protection idea and are calling instead for funding to state and local governments, funding for schools, an extension of the $600 unemployment insurance benefit and another round of direct payments to Americans, among other things.
Mnuchin earlier this month said that the Trump administration backed another round of direct stimulus payments in the next aid package and said that Congress must pass it by the end of the month. Any Republican-led proposal would then have to be negotiated with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to become law.
Congress doesn’t have much time to negotiate and pass the legislation — lawmakers have only a few weeks left in Washington before their annual summer recess in August which will be focused on campaigning and the two parties’ conventions.