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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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here 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 MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says 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 TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he 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. 

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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 ThuneSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism McConnell seeks to end feud with Trump MORE (R-S.D.), asked about tying the education funding to schools reopening for in-person classes. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (R-Mo.) added that "some of that support" could be conditioned because schools that reopen would have different costs.  

"[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 ShelbySenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Senate GOP opens door to earmarks Five takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal MORE (R-Ala.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Blunt's retirement deals blow to McConnell inner circle 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.