WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers offered a $1.5 trillion compromise Tuesday to provide coronavirus relief and break a stalemate between House Democrats, the White House and the Republican-led Senate.
The 50-member Problem Solvers Caucus, made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, unveiled their package that provides money for testing, small businesses, state and local governments, lawsuit liability protections, election support and unemployment assistance.
“At its peak, Nevada’s unemployment rate reached 30 percent, and the additional $600 per week in unemployment assistance expired over six weeks ago, leaving $1.5 billion of benefits on the table,” said Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., a Problem Solvers member who spoke in favor of the proposal during a Capitol Hill news conference.
Lee urged congressional action to help those still in need.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that Congress should remain in session until a relief package is passed. The House has offered to reduce its $3.4 trillion relief bill, passed three months ago, to $2.2 trillion in aid.
Last week, Democrats blocked a slimmed-down $300 billion bill offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pressured by GOP senators with competitive elections to offer an alternative to the House.
After the defeat, McConnell said there may not be a package approved until after the election.
On Tuesday, he told a news conference there was still “a need” for a package, and did not rule out a compromise.
House Democratic leaders and McConnell have engaged in finger pointing for failure to move forward.
And some Democrats also said the bipartisan proposal that was put forward Tuesday did not go far enough to provide help needed to help those need, and to kick start the economy.
Members of the bipartisan caucus, however, were hopeful the proposal provided a blueprint for a compromise that would break the stalemate.
The impasse affects states, particularly Nevada where COVID-19 has resulted in high unemployment, mom-and-pop shop closures, cancellation of entertainment and events, and shrinking state and municipal budgets the could result in layoffs.
Last month, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Lee, Nevada members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, urged congressional leadership to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a compromise.
“Nevadans are counting on us to get this done,” Amodei and Lee said in a letter to leaders.
The bipartisan group of problem solvers laid out a blueprint that includes measures sought by Democrats and Republicans with a price tag of $1.5 trillion that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said would be acceptable to the White House.
Meanwhile, the Vegas Chamber is holding its annual meeting with administration officials and lawmakers in Washington to lobby for federal spending and policies to economically help Southern Nevada.
Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Vegas Chamber, said local business and community leaders are seeking infrastructure spending for Interstate 11 to provide jobs and diversify the economy.
In addition, the local business leaders are seeking federal aid to hospitals and medical facilities, and limited liability for health care facilities and other businesses from frivolous lawsuits.
Sewald said another major focus for the Las Vegas community is workforce development and assistance for retraining.
The bipartisan package would include COVID-19 testing, unemployment insurance, although not at the $600 per week amount the House seeks, direct stimulus checks, liability protection, state and local aid, housing support, small business and non-profit support and election support.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate are only expected to be in session for several weeks before they recess for elections.
Pelosi on Tuesday said she was prepared to keep the House in session until an agreement is reached on a coronavirus package, but she has remained adamant about unemployment insurance, help for schools, nutrition, testing and help for states and local governments.
McConnell has demanded liability protections and assistance for businesses.
Some Senate Republicans have balked at the price tag of another coronavirus package following more than $3 trillion spent in previous bills that were approved after the pandemic struck.
President Donald Trump has pledged to provide unemployment, housing help and another stimulus check, but is opposed to providing federal assistance to states and cities.