By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she supported including another round of $1,200 direct payments for Americans in a fresh package of coronavirus relief under discussion in Congress.
A proposal for $908 billion in relief – put forward by a bipartisan group of lawmakers last week and endorsed by Pelosi, a Democrat, as a basis for negotiations – does not include funding for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks like the ones included in a previous COVID-19 aid package last spring.
But trying to add such payments now could complicate negotiations between lawmakers, who are already spinning their wheels over provisions to help state and local governments, which Democrats want, and protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a top Republican priority.
Pelosi, in a quick hallway conversation with reporters, said she hoped $1,200 checks could be included. “I hope so. But that’s really more up to the president (Donald Trump) if he would be agreeable to do that, but we’re all for it,” she said.
Both parties are under mounting pressure to deliver a fresh infusion of coronavirus aid to families and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has killed over 283,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work.
A group of emergency aid programs implemented in response to the pandemic, including additional unemployment benefits and a moratorium on renter evictions, is set to expire at the end of December.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, hope to attach long-awaited COVID-19 relief to a broad $1.4 trillion spending bill, known as an omnibus, that lawmakers are also trying to pass this month.
Lawmakers enacted $3 trillion in COVID-19 aid earlier this year but have not been able to agree on fresh relief since April.
Before the Nov. 3 election, which Republican Trump lost, he spoke in favor of including another round of direct payments to Americans in a new coronavirus relief plan. Some other Republicans back the idea, too.
Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri told Politico he had lobbied Trump in a phone call on Saturday to veto any coronavirus aid bill that does not contain a second tranche of checks to Americans.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told reporters Tuesday he favored the idea and was seeking support from other senators.
But many Republicans have been hesitant to support anything that increases the price tag. McConnell favors a smaller, $500 billion measure and has said Trump would sign that.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Jonathan Oatis)