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New coronavirus relief may slip past election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is quickly moving past the point at which it can deliver more coronavirus relief before the election, with differences between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her Senate Republican rivals and President Donald Trump proving durable despite the glaring needs of the country.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows took to the airwaves Monday to deliver an optimistic appraisal to the markets and to promise larger direct payments for families than the $1,200 per adult and $500 per child that was delivered this spring — even as his GOP allies have dumped the idea overboard.

“We remain committed to negotiating and also committed to making sure that we get a deal as quickly as possible,” Meadows said on Fox News. “If Nancy Pelosi will be reasonable, she’ll find the president of the United States to be reasonable, and we’ll get something across the finish line.”

But time is running out and significant differences remain in the way of an informal Tuesday deadline set by Pelosi if the talks are going to lead to legislation being delivered to Trump before the election.

Trump’s GOP allies are reconvening the Senate this week for a revote on a virus proposal that about one-third the size of a measure being negotiated by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But the Senate GOP bill has failed once before, and Trump himself says it’s too puny. The debate promises to bring a hefty dose of posturing and political gamesmanship, but little more.

A procedural tally on a stand-alone renewal of bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program business subsidies is slated for Tuesday in a vote that could cause Democratic fracturing but isn’t likely to advance the legislation.

Even the architect of the larger Senate measure, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., isn’t claiming this week’s vote will advance the ball. Once the measure fails, he plans to turn the chamber’s full attention to cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court by confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

In that context, this week’s action has the chief benefit of giving Republicans in tough reelection races one last opportunity to try to show voters they are prioritizing COVID relief — and to make the case to voters that Democrats are the ones standing in the way.

“It was important to indicate to the American people before the election — not after — that we were not in favor of a stalemate, that we were not in favor of doing nothing,” McConnell said in a Kentucky appearance last week.

McConnell is resurrecting a measure in the $650 billion range that would provide a second round of paycheck relief, add $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits, and help schools and universities reopen. It contains no funding for states and local governments sought by Democrats and ignores Trump’s demand for another, larger round of direct payments.

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