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Republicans, Deeply Divided on Virus Aid, Near Agreement on an Opening Offer

2020-07-23 12:04:23

Now, with the coronavirus surging, jobless aid set to expire in 10 days, and their re-election races less than four months away, they are stuck assembling a $1 trillion measure that they privately concede will probably grow substantially before their negotiations with Democrats conclude, ideally before both chambers are scheduled to leave Washington in August.

“Everyone assumed months ago schools would be reopening, the economy would be re-engaging. That is not necessarily true in many places,” Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said Wednesday. “So while I understand ‘hey, you have had months and months of time,’ every week the ground shifts on us and you have to be careful with other people’s money.”

Republicans spent Wednesday trying to finalize their opening bid. In a nod toward fiscal hawks, Senate leaders were discussing the possibility of including deficit-reduction measures in the bill, such as a bipartisan commission championed in a recent op-ed by Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah.

The measure is taking shape as Mr. Trump’s unpopularity drags down Republicans’ electoral fortunes, putting their Senate majority in peril and sharpening a debate over how the party should define itself.

In the House, too, Republicans have been feuding among themselves, embittered by their political situation and competing to shape their party’s message. In a private meeting on Tuesday, a group of Trump loyalists heaped criticism on Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, for being insufficiently supportive of the president. Ms. Cheney, a staunch conservative, has questioned Mr. Trump’s national security policies and broken with him at times on his approach to the coronavirus.

In the Senate, Republicans were discussing a rescue package that would send additional checks directly to families, provide more assistance for small businesses and allocate $105 billion for schools. Of those funds, $70 billion would go to elementary and secondary schools, with half reserved for schools that are holding in-person classes, and another $30 billion for colleges and universities.

The proposal, which is to be presented as soon as Thursday, is also expected to include $16 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, according to a person familiar with the discussion, as well as $4 billion to assist with the global distribution of a vaccine. Republicans had initially proposed substantially more money for those items, and the administration at first balked at including any.


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