GOP eyes more than $70 billion for schools in coronavirus package

GOP eyes more than $70 billion for schools in coronavirus package
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Republicans are eyeing more than $70 billion in help for schools as part of the next coronavirus aid package currently being negotiated. 

"There is going to be over $70 billion that this president has already authorized to work with Congress to try to make sure we not only keep the classrooms safe, but the students safe," White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHouse has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump to sit for interview MORE told Fox News of the forthcoming GOP proposal for the fifth coronavirus relief legislation.

Asked as he left a meeting on Monday night with Meadows and top GOP senators if there would be more than $70 billion for schools in the GOP plan, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Suspect in Khashoggi murder arrested The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules MORE told reporters “that would be a good guess.”

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“It’s a lot of money,” Mnuchin added. 

How much funding to give to schools, and what restrictions should be attached to it, has emerged as an early fight in the upcoming negotiations. 

As states across the country see a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, school districts are having to weigh if they should bring students back for in-person classes, hold virtual lessons or do some combination of both. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE has threatened to defund schools that do not reopen for in-person classes this fall. 

"The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!" he tweeted earlier this month. 

The threat has earned fierce criticism from Democrats, who have warned against using federal money to try to nudge schools into reopening for in-person classes.

The total being discussed by Republicans is also short of the $175 billion Democrats proposed for schools in late June. 

Top GOP senators, including those involved with crafting the education portion of the bill, have also pushed back over the idea of tying the coronavirus aid to schools reopening. They say that schools who resume in-person classes would likely need more help to cover associated costs, those that do not hold in-person classes are likely to still need federal assistance. 

“I just don't think you can come up with a national federal policy that’s a one size fits all. The circumstances are very different,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Watch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office MORE (R-S.D.), asked about tying the education funding to schools reopening for in-person classes. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Swalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence MORE (R-Mo.) added that "some of that support" could be conditioned because schools that reopen would have different costs.  

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"[But] I think, in any case, schools at all levels have been impacted by what happened and so I think a lot of that support needs to not be conditioned," he added. 

Mnuchin and Meadows met with Blunt, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Negotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence MORE (R-Ala.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.) on Monday night. A significant portion of their discussion, they said, was about school funding. 

The GOP group is set to meet again on Tuesday morning. 

"Well, just a better understanding of how we can ... most effectively use federal dollars to help 135,000 public and private schools, and 6,000 colleges, open safely this fall, as much as possible in-person. That's what I would hope to do," Alexander said when asked what he hoped to get out of the Tuesday meeting.