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U.S. official sees 'real desire' for smaller coronavirus relief bill

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol building is pictured at sunset on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - Some Democrats and Republicans have a “real desire” to reach agreement on a smaller coronavirus relief bill that could be worth around $500 billion, a senior Trump administration official said late on Tuesday.

The official said the agreement could include funding for the U.S. Postal Service, additional funding for loans to small- and medium-sized businesses to keep workers on their payrolls and potentially added money for schools.

“I think there’s a real desire by some in the Democratic caucus and some in the Republican conference, both in the House and the Senate, to do a smaller deal on the things we can agree upon,” the official said. “It could be about $500 billion.”

That amount still falls far short of what Democrats have been seeking in protracted discussions with the administration.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation.

“We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Pelosi said in an online interview with Politico. “We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now.”

The Democratic-led House passed legislation with over $3 trillion in relief in May. Democrats offered this month to reduce that sum by $1 trillion, but the White House rejected it.

The two sides remain about $2 trillion apart, with wide gaps on funding for schools, aid to state and local governments, and enhanced unemployment benefits.

The senior administration official said while a narrow agreement was possible on some issues, he did not see aid to state and local governments and a fresh round of stimulus checks as possible at the moment.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam

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