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Senate GOP, White House reach tentative $1 trillion pact to break coronavirus aid logjam

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prepares to testify before the House Small Business Committee at the U.S. Capitol on July 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

Senate Republicans announced Wednesday evening that they have “reached a fundamental agreement” with White House negotiators on how to move forward with a coronavirus relief bill.

After the third meeting this week, Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chair of the Appropriations Committee; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chair of the Rules Committee, emerged from the negotiating room with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows saying they are “completely on the same page” and “in good shape.”

The tentative framework comes amid tension in the party over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which is forcing states to re-evaluate their plans to reopen and to address the growing numbers of cases and deaths.

The legislation remains fluid, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated that he wants to keep the price tag at $1 trillion. Republicans aren’t all on the same page, as some have denounced the cost amid a soaring national debt. But the latest talks show some signs of breaking an intraparty logjam that has kept negotiations at a dead stop for weeks.

The legislation remains fluid, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated that he wants to keep the price tag at $1 trillion. Republicans aren’t all on the same page, as some have denounced the cost amid a soaring national debt. But the latest talks show some signs of breaking an intraparty logjam that has kept negotiations at a dead stop for weeks.

The new proposal will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who have passed a $3.4 trillion bill in the House and have been pressuring the GOP to move quickly on new aid as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise in the United States.

The Republicans intend to release their plan Thursday, but in “a handful of bills now instead of just one bill,” Blunt told reporters.

“So we’ll have one appropriations bill, we’ll have several authorization bills that explain in more detail how that appropriated money will be spent, and obviously there will be a bill that will talk about any money that is distributed in direct payments or any other way,” he said.