White House, Senate Republicans try again on virus aid

Two months after Democrats in the House approved a major relief package to help those hit by the Coronavirus outbreak, Republicans in the Senate will try again this week to roll out a plan with the White House for more virus aid, even as GOP Senators frankly admit that many in their own party are likely to vote against such aid proposals.

"Half the Republicans are going to vote no on any Phase 4 package," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News on Sunday, even as he rattled off a number of items like extra unemployment aid, direct checks for Americans, money for schools, and more.

Graham's comments came during a weekend of work involving top White House officials and Senate staffers on Capitol Hill, as key Republicans wrestled over the details among themselves - with no guarantee the GOP can pass anything out of the Senate, or reach a deal with the House.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows even suggested Republicans on Sunday could pass a bare bones relief measure later this week - with extra unemployment benefits expiring in days - and then set up negotiations with Democrats.

Republicans were zeroing in on a series of proposals:

+ Another round of $1,200 checks for most Americans.

+ Reducing the extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits.

+ Money to help schools re-open and deal with the Coronavirus.

+ Liability protection to protect schools and businesses from virus-related lawsuits.

"We'll make sure that school districts, colleges, churches, nonprofits, and employers that obey official guidance do not have to delay reopening because they're afraid they'll spend ten years in court," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But that liability protection proposal was hotly opposed by Democrats, who said it was an open invitation to companies and schools to leave people open to the virus threat.

As the GOP talks stretched through the weekend - with questions about what Republicans could approve - Democrats were more than happy to portray the GOP as hapless legislators.

"McConnell is entering this negotiation in the weakest position i can recall any leader from either party in a couple of decades," tweeted Democratic strategist Jim Manley.

"They have waited more than two months to even start the legislative process on COVID relief." said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“They are botching this,” Schatz said of the GOP.

Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau

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