By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 50 Democratic and Republican members of Congress is due to unveil $1.5 trillion bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation on Tuesday, in an election year effort to break a month-long impasse in COVID-19 talks between the White House and top Democrats.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes members of both parties in the House of Representatives, was set to outline the legislative package at an 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) press conference at the U.S. Capitol.
The group, which says it has been working to find common ground on coronavirus relief for the past six weeks, agreed on the measure just before House lawmakers returned to Washington from a summer recess on Monday.
“This is just a framework to hopefully get the negotiators back to the table,” U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer, the group’s Democratic co-chairman, told CNBC.
The proposal includes another round of direct checks to Americans, $500 billion for state and local governments and jobless benefits, with spending lasting beyond next January’s presidential inauguration, a source familiar with the plan said.
With less than two months to go before the Nov. 3 election, there is growing anxiety among lawmakers about the inability of Congress and President Donald Trump’s White House to agree on a package to deliver relief to millions of Americans and an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Talks between the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer broke down in early August and the two sides remain nearly $900 billion apart. But Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent days have both signaled a willingness to keep talking.
White House adviser Jared Kushner on Tuesday separately told CNBC he hoped a deal could be reached but that it might not happen until after the election.
Trump on Tuesday also cited the need for more funding but sought to cast blame on the House Democratic leader, telling Fox News in an interview: “We could use additional stimulus, but Nancy Pelosi won’t approve it because she thinks it’s bad for me in the election.”
Democrats, who control the House, passed their $3.4 trillion package in mid-May. They later said they would accept $2.2 trillion in spending, while the White House signaled a willingness to accept $1.3 trillion.
Republican congressional leaders have not participated in the discussions. The Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass a $300 billion coronavirus bill that Senate Democrats called inadequate. A slimmed-down version of an earlier $1 trillion Republican measure also failed.
(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by by Susan Heavey; Editing Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)