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Second stimulus check: bipartisan coronavirus relief proposal unveiled

The Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 Republican and Democrat lawmakers, has unveiled the "March to Common Ground" proposal for a coronavirus aid package.

FILE PHOTO: An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

A bipartisan group of United States lawmakers has unveiled a new, "framework" proposal for a coronavirus aid package, as Congress struggles to push through relief legislation to tackle the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Democrat, White House negotiators well apart in stimulus talks

Talks between Democratic congressional leaders and White House chiefs have so far failed to yield agreement over a fifth coronavirus relief bill, with the two sides well apart in their desired overall spend.

Democratic negotiators Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have said they are willing to drop the $3.4m outlay set out in the HEROES Act - a relief bill passed by Democrats in the House in May - to $2.2tn, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has revealed the White House may be prepared to accept $1.5tn.

House will stay in session until bill agreed, says Pelosi

The House, which reconvened from its summer break on Monday, is scheduled to go back on recess on 2 October as lawmakers leave Washington to focus on the presidential and congressional elections. That would leave only a short window for legislation to be passed ahead of November’s nationwide vote, during a period in which a government funding bill must also be agreed.

However, House Speaker Pelosi has said the lower chamber will remain in session until an economic stimulus package has been agreed. “We have to stay here until we have a bill,” she told House Democrats on Monday, per The Washington Post.

Gottheimer: "Here is a roadmap, let's take it and get this done"

In a press conference held in front of the US Capitol Building on Tuesday, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 Republican and Democrat congressmen and women, launched a proposal called the “March to Common Ground”, which Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), the body’s co-chairperson, told CNBC earlier in the day can "hopefully get the negotiators back to the table”.

“We were able to come together, 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, to show we can agree on the toughest of issues that have been holding the sides apart,” Gottheimer told Tuesday’s news conference. “Here is a framework, here is a roadmap, let’s take it and get this done.”

What's in "March to Common Ground" plan?

Worth an initial $1.5tn, the package’s overall spend could rise to $2tn in early 2021 "depending on the severity of the pandemic", the Problem Solvers Caucus said, but would go down by $200bn if the US economy improves.

Among the measures included in the plan are: $500bn of funding for state and local governments; a second round of stimulus checks of up to $1,200 (with extra credits of $500 for dependents of all ages); supplementary unemployment benefits which would start at $450 a week, before rising to up to $600 after two months; and $290bn to support small businesses.

The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to countenance the plan's potential $2tn spend, having sought to limit the price of a comprehensive package to $1tn in the HEALS Act, a proposed bill released by GOP senators in July. Republicans also saw a $300bn ‘skinny’ bill blocked by Democrats in the upper house last week.

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