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Democratic leaders want next coronavirus relief bill wrapped up by July 31

Democratic leaders want next coronavirus relief bill wrapped up by July 31
© Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders are pushing hard to finalize an agreement on the next multitrillion-dollar package of coronavirus relief to wrap up the process before Aug. 1.

"I’m hoping for the end of the month,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Houston will send residents checks of up to ,200 for pandemic relief MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday morning in the Capitol.

They have plenty of work to do to meet that deadline.

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In May, House Democrats had passed a $3.4 trillion package, the HEROES Act, that largely extended or replenished emergency aid provided by Congress in the two months previous. It includes hundreds of billions of dollars for unemployment insurance, direct payments to individuals, medical supplies, coronavirus testing and funds to prop up embattled state and local governments.

Senate Republicans have rejected both the size of the Democrats' proposal, and a number of the policy prescriptions contained within it.

But with some of the emergency funding set to expire within days, including the unemployment insurance benefits, Democrats maintain there's no time to dally.

"We need to address this issue with the fierce urgency of now, which based off the legislative calendar means finishing it by July 31," said Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democrat Caucus. "The American people need a meaningful and transformative intervention so we can turn this around."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell: COVID-19 relief will be added to omnibus spending package Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) are set to meet Monday afternoon with a pair of top administration officials — Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Overnight Health Care: CDC panel recommends who gets vaccine first | McConnell offering new relief bill | Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Overnight Health Care: CDC panel recommends who gets vaccine first | McConnell offering new relief bill | Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines On The Money: McConnell offering new coronavirus relief bill | Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on relief | Rare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing MORE — to launch the negotiations formally.

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Republicans in the Senate and White House are pushing a much smaller relief bill — in the range of $1 trillion — as their opening bid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.) took to the chamber floor Tuesday morning to outline the major provisions in the Republicans' proposal, including new help for small businesses, more than $100 billion to help schools reopen safely, and another round of stimulus checks for individuals and families.

"The American job market needs another shot of adrenaline," he said.

McConnell did not mention a favored policy of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE — a payroll-tax cut — which White House leaders had touted as a central element of the package just a day earlier.

The $1 trillion figure is a non-starter for Democrats, who say it's woefully insufficient to address the dual crises of the fast-spreading pandemic and the economic devastation it has caused.

Democrats are also lining up in opposition to the payroll tax cut, if it does appear in the Republicans' bill, noting that it would do nothing to help the millions of recently unemployed people who aren't on any payrolls.

"There's no evidence that it's an appropriate intervention," said Jeffries.

With the sides still far apart, McConnell has suggested the negotiations will bleed into the first week of August, when the Senate — but not the House — is already scheduled to be in session.

House Democrats are already bracing for that possibility.

In a letter to colleagues last week, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerCapitol physician advises lawmakers against attending dinners, receptions during COVID-19 spike Congress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 Overnight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire MORE (D-Md.) said the House is prepared to vote on an agreement — whenever it arrives.

"[T]he House will return, if needed, to do its job whenever required to help Americans get through this crisis," Hoyer wrote.