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Trump tells Senate GOP to ‘be tough’

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for perhaps one of the larger social gatherings still happening in Washington amid the coronavirus — the weekly Senate Republican lunch.

Behind closed doors, Trump was unscripted and freewheeling with the 53 GOP senators. He touted his poll numbers, dismissed rival Joe Biden and implored Republicans to “be tough” against Democrats this fall. Despite House passage of a $3 trillion pandemic aid package, Republicans insisted they’ll wait until June to consider whether more help is necessary.

“We had a great meeting — all of the Republican senators were there,” Trump told reporters afterward.

The private gathering stood in contrast to the scenes playing out in households across the U.S. With social distancing and a shuttered economy, many Americans remain hunkered down at home, juggling children and jobs even as some states begin to reopen. More than 30 million are unemployed.

“They had a giant pep rally and got all fired up to do nothing,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. “What a day.”

Washington’s power centers are at a political and economic crossroads as Congress and the White House consider next steps in the pandemic response.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Democrats in approving an aid package last week, Senate Republicans say they’re not interested in providing more funds until they gauge how the $2 trillion in already-approved relief is being spent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there’s no urgency to act.

“We need to assess what we’ve already done, take a look at what worked and what didn’t,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “We’ll discuss the way forward in the next couple of weeks.”

As governors plead for funds, Pelosi’s package includes $900 billion to states and cities to shore up their budgets and prevent mass layoffs of state and local government workers. Regional tax revenues have plummeted during the virus outbreak and economic shutdown.

The Democratic bill also provides money for more virus testing, a fresh round of $1,200 rebate checks for cash-strapped Americans and other aid.

Republicans dismiss the House bill as a liberal wish list.

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