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Pelosi confident U.S. Congress will produce strong coronavirus relief bill

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters following a classified intelligence briefing on reports that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. military in Afghanistan, during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is “very confident” Democrats and Republicans in Congress will agree on strong new coronavirus relief legislation after lawmakers return from their July break.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call with public union members, Pelosi said she has received overtures from individual Republicans about the need for further legislation and that the Trump administration is seeking to peg spending at $1 trillion as coronavirus cases surge in the United States.

“We feel very confident that we’ll have a strong bill,” Pelosi said. “$1 trillion doesn’t do it for us. But we can negotiate from there.”

The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package in May that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to consider. Instead, McConnell is expected to move his own bill through the Republican-controlled Senate in late July.

Earlier on Thursday, Pelosi insisted that new legislation include trillions in pandemic aid for state and local governments, workers and their families and efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“We need $1 trillion for state and local. We need another $1 trillion for unemployment insurance and direct payments. Something like that, but probably not as much, for the testing, tracing, treatment,” Pelosi told a news conference.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told an interviewer on Thursday that he supports more direct payments to Americans but said any extension of enhanced unemployment benefits would be capped at 100% or less of a worker’s pre-pandemic pay.

House and Senate lawmakers left Washington just before the July 4 holiday and are due to return on July 20.

Reporting by David Morgan and Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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