Pelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday signaled a willingness to compromise with Republicans on the size of renewed expanded unemployment benefits, which are currently set to expire at the end of the month.

During a press conference at the Capitol, Pelosi indicated that the size of the expansion would depend on whether the next coronavirus relief package includes another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families. 

"That pillar is about putting money into the pockets of the American people. One piece of it is unemployment insurance and the benefit you are talking about, and another part of it is how we put direct payments into the families," she said. "So we'll see what that entire package looks like."

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"We'll see how it goes with the conversation about that, but some of it depends on what they're willing to do on the direct payments as well," Pelosi added of Republicans.

GOP lawmakers and the Trump administration have argued that the extra $600 per week in unemployment insurance payments established in March disincentivizes people to return to work if they're collecting more money than they did before the pandemic. But in recent weeks, some have suggested renewing the weekly benefit at a lower amount, such as $400 or less.

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill two months ago that would extend the $600 weekly payments through January as well as provide a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $6,000 for families with children.

The enhanced unemployment insurance program is set to expire in less than two weeks, but the House and Senate won't be back in session until Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the “bonus” had been a “mistake.”

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“I think basic unemployment insurance is extremely important,” McConnell said. “We need to help the states make sure that basic unemployment insurance is still there for a lengthier period of time.”

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNavarro, Mnuchin clashed in front of Trump in Oval Office over TikTok: WaPo Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE also said last week that the Trump administration wants to ensure that people don't receive more in unemployment insurance payments than they did at their previous jobs, telling CNBC that "you can assume that it will be no more than 100 percent" of a worker’s typical pay.

Another major part of the negotiations this month will be over aid to help schools manage the costs of resuming classroom instruction during the pandemic. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE has pushed for schools to reopen for full-time, in-person instruction this fall, despite concerns among educators and some parents about whether it is safe to do so while coronavirus cases are spiking in numerous states.

The relief package that House Democrats passed in May included $90 billion to help states afford cleaning supplies, transportation costs and educational technology for K-12 and public postsecondary schools.

Pelosi said that amount may need to rise to help schools open safely.

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"This is absolutely essential. In fact, in the passage of time and the demands that the president's making, we may need more than that at this point. We may need even more," Pelosi said.

Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal in late June that would provide $175 billion — nearly twice as much as the House Democrats' bill — to help K-12 schools buy protective equipment, adhere to social distancing guidelines in classrooms and enhance virtual learning.

Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from schools that don't fully resume in-person classes, and some Republicans have suggested that aid for schools could be dependent upon whether they reopen. But Pelosi said the aid shouldn't be conditional.

"I think their opening is contingent on their receiving money. But not money as a threat. Money as a precaution to protect the children," Pelosi said.