DAVID GREENE, HOST:
There's been some solid progress on Capitol Hill towards another coronavirus relief bill. Republican senators and the White House reached a tentative agreement last night, but they're still working through some major details. This comes after a lot of debate over the bill and its price tag. And let's get the latest now from NPR's congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Hi, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
GREENE: So what has been agreed to between Republicans and the White House to this point?
SNELL: Well, we should say that this bill still isn't final, even though we expected a full bill to be released this morning. So Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, went back to Capitol Hill this morning. And before Mnuchin left the White House, he spoke to reporters and said they'd agreed on $16 billion in new money for testing. They agreed not to include a payroll tax cut that the White House was asking for. And the big thing that they're still working on is unemployment. Mnuchin says the $600 in weekly benefits people get now just won't be extended. Republicans want to do some sort of wage replacement instead. Here's what he said.
STEVEN MNUCHIN: People shouldn't focus on the number right now. What people should focus on - this is intended to be wage replacement. So we're focused on the percentage, which is about 70%.
SNELL: So 70% - they want to look at how much people are making now and replace that instead of a flat number. They're also talking about $105 billion for schools, $30 billion of which would go to colleges and universities and 70 billion for K-12 education.
GREENE: Though speaking about people who are out of work, I mean, we have new jobs numbers out just this morning that seemed to show bigger losses than a lot of economists were predicting. Could that really impact the conversation here?
SNELL: Yeah. You know, we know that Democrats want more than a 70% wage replacement. It's good to remember that Republicans are framing this as a starting point, though. So the 70% may not be where they wind up in a final bill. And the $600 was always kind of a Band-Aid for an emergency if they wanted to get money to people fast. Nobody, not even Democrats, wanted a fixed number for everyone. They just didn't know how to execute that because, you know, state systems were really out of date and they didn't think that the states were going to be able to communicate with the federal government to get that money out there. There's a proposal from some Democrats to do a full wage replacement, and it's a pretty popular idea, too.
GREENE: Well, for people who are out of work right now, I mean, can they count on Congress getting something done before unemployment benefits just run out at the end of this month?
SNELL: You know, it's really hard to see how they would get an agreement that fast because that would require Congress to have an agreement in place and a law passed and new rules sent to the states before, really, the end of this week. So we're expecting that they're going to try to get something done before they leave for their August recess, which is the annual time when Congress gets out of town and works from their homes. But that's, you know, 2 1/2 weeks from now. So they may have to pass something retroactively so that people can get catch-up payments so - if they miss money in between now and whenever an agreement comes together.
GREENE: Well, look at this broadly for me. I mean, you have Republicans who have overcome some of their internal disagreements and are working on this plan, but then they're going to start negotiating with Democrats, who, as you said, want a lot more money in different places. I mean, is there any sign that the parties will come together?
SNELL: Yeah, not just a lot more money - like, a lot, a lot more money.
GREENE: A lot, a lot - like trillions of dollars, right?
SNELL: (Laughter) Yeah, Democrats want $3 trillion in spending, and Republicans are talking about something in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars. So this is a really big and really heavy lift for them. And, you know, Democrats have been feeling really confident that they can push for their priorities to be included because, frankly, Republicans don't have the votes in the Senate to get anything passed and Democrats control the House. So they have significant leverage here. It's just a question of whether or not the president will go along with whatever they agree to, which is always a wild card.
GREENE: Lots of action on Capitol Hill, and our congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is all over it. Kelsey, thanks a lot.
SNELL: Thanks for having me.
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