By Kristina Peterson 

As negotiators work to iron out a compromise on unemployment payments, school funding and other pressing matters related to the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans and Democrats are also trying to weed out items they say have nothing to do with the outbreak.

The latest stimulus package is expected to run north of $1 trillion, and large bills in Congress inevitably attract spending proposals that have little or nothing to do with the core thrust of the legislation. This time -- and with not much else expected to get passed before the election -- some lawmakers and President Trump included pet projects in their parties' plans in the hopes they survive in any eventual deal.

They have been met with a cool reception. Democrats have criticized items pushed by the White House, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he was opposed to all measures not closely connected to pandemic relief -- whether they came from Democrats or Republicans.

"When we get to the end of the process I would hope all of the non-Covid related measures are out, no matter what bills they were in at the start, " he said.

Here's a look at what could be on the chopping block -- or might stay in as a bargaining chip for another priority.

From the Senate GOP bill released last week:

--$1.75 billion to build a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in downtown Washington

The Trump administration abruptly canceled plans in 2017 to build a suburban FBI campus. Instead, it pushed to keep the agency's current downtown location, saying officials wanted it to remain across the street from the main Justice Department building, and the White House is pushing for funds to construct a new building. Keeping the FBI downtown would prevent the redevelopment of the site, which is near the Trump International Hotel. Both Democrats and Republicans have widely criticized the inclusion of the funds in the bill. "You have to be near the Justice Department," Mr. Trump said last week. "They had sites way out in Virginia, way out in Maryland, I said the best place is right where it is.... So we have that in the bill. It should stay."

--$377 million for renovations to the West Wing of the White House and a screening facility

This is another proposal from the White House. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that much of that funding would "pertain to safety protocols," including filtration systems, enhanced communication ability and other "needs highlighted by the pandemic."

--Assorted spending on defense systems and weapons

In the GOP bill, Senate Republicans included $29 billion for the Defense Department, including $686 million for F-35 jet fighters, $283 million for Apache AH-64 attack helicopters, $1 billion for maritime surveillance aircraft, $1.5 billion for four expeditionary medical ships and $49 million for sonar buoys that can track objects underwater. In some instances, the bill replenishes Defense Department funds that were redirected in previous years by the administration to help build the wall along the border with Mexico. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R., Okla.) has said that while the stimulus bill isn't the ideal place for military spending, the military needs every opportunity possible for rebuilding.

From the Democratic bill passed by the House in May:

--Repeal of the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction for 2020 and 2021

In their 2017 tax overhaul, Republicans placed a $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers can deduct from federal taxable income. Governors of high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey want Congress to eliminate the cap. Doing so would help their constituents, make it easier for them to raise state and local taxes and reduce incentives for people to move to lower-taxed states. Repealing that limit would also deliver direct tax cuts to high-income households, and the top 1% of households would get 57% of the benefits, according to the Tax Policy Center. "We need to cushion the blow of this virus. The SALT cap hurts people affected by the virus," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in New York last month. "It hurts so many of the metropolitan areas like New York."

--Banking access for marijuana businesses

The provision would protect financial institutions that serve marijuana businesses in states where the substance is legal. Federally insured depository institutions are prohibited from offering financial services to such businesses because pot is illegal under federal law, forcing the companies to deal primarily in cash. Supporters say the proposal would make it easier for legitimate marijuana businesses to conduct transactions without cash, making them safer during a pandemic. "I don't agree with you that cannabis is not related to this. This is a therapy that has proven successful," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said last week when asked by reporters about the proposal.

Write to Kristina Peterson at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 04, 2020 07:14 ET (11:14 GMT)

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