Congress, White House close in on coronavirus aid bill as U.S. closures loom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House Democrats and the Trump administration are close to a deal on a coronavirus economic aid package, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday, with a vote in the House of Representatives expected later in the day.

“We’re close. We have exchanged paper. We’ll talk again this morning,” Pelosi said as negotiations continued over a relief package to help offset economic shocks from the coronavirus as the growing outbreak rattled Americans and unnerved financial markets.

Pelosi and Mnuchin, who is handling negotiations for President Donald Trump’s Republican administration, are seeking to come to an agreement on an economic aid package after Congress earlier approved $8.3 billion to fight the disease.

In a CNBC interview, Mnuchin said negotiations with the House were going very well.

He later told reporters at the White House that he had also spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy earlier on Friday about the emerging deal.

“We will have support,” Mnuchin told reporters.

It was not immediately clear what specific measures would make it through to a final package after negotiators worked through the night.

The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, on Friday morning said there was no deal yet.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone declined to comment on negotiations after meeting with Pelosi but said he expected a vote on legislation later on Friday.

“I can say there will be a vote,” he told reporters.

Democrats want sweeping steps to address economic hardships, including sick leave, unemployment insurance and funding for food programs, while Republicans have balked at what they called Democrats’ burdensome proposal, particularly its provision for paid leave for employees.

Sweeping closures across the country are likely to disrupt the economy for weeks, affecting a wide range of industries and disrupting workers and families.

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In a tweet on Friday, Trump continued to press for a payroll tax cut, which has received a cool response from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Any measure must pass both the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate before Trump could sign it into law.

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