Second stimulus checks: GOP disagreement could delay direct payments

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A second round of stimulus payments to Americans will be part of the next COVID-19 relief package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, but a disagreement among Republican leadership could lead to a delay in approving the next round of aid.

During a Tuesday news conference, President Trump warned he may not sign the next round of relief unless it includes a payroll tax cut. According to reporting from The Washington Post, the cut doesn’t have much Republican support in Washington.

The Post reports Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow met with Senate Republicans Tuesday to discuss the payroll tax cut, among other things. According to The Post, Republican leadership was not supportive of the idea of a payroll tax cut or stopping funding for coronavirus testing.

“There are some differences of opinion on the question of the payroll-tax cut and whether that’s the best way to go, and so we’re still in discussion with the administration on that,” McConnell said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. 

The Washington Post reports the lack of consensus could push passing this coronavirus aid until August.  

McConnell, who hasn’t specified a dollar amount for the stimulus checks, says the GOP’s $1 trillion package would also include a “targeted, second round” of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses with a “special eye toward hard-hit businesses” and $105 billion for education.

McConnell was hopeful to get the package passed before the end of the month. However, the Kentucky senator is encountering resistance within his own party.

“We’ve already spent $3 trillion of money we don’t have,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC). “We need a non-cash outlay, because we’re borrowing the money. We’ve got to have liability protection and we’ve got to have a moratorium on the payroll tax.”

With the pandemic showing no signs of easing, officials acknowledge the daunting challenge of trying to contain the coronavirus and prevent further economic distress. The U.S. has rising infections and a death toll nearing 142,000, more than anywhere else in the world. The health crisis is worsening just as emergency aid is about to expire.

Meadows told reporters the president wants to ensure the funding package “meets the legitimate needs that are before the American people.”

Democratic leaders said the Republicans are in disarray, and Pelosi later blamed the pandemic’s mounting toll on the president’s inaction.

“It is the Trump virus,” she said on CNN.

The political stakes are high for both parties before the November election, and even more so for the nation, as amid the virus crisis and economic fallout.

Biden, the Democrats’ presumed presidential nominee, stated his own priorities, urging “a lifeline to those who need it most: working families and small businesses.”

Trump’s renewed focus on therapeutics and a vaccine is falling flat among lawmakers who understand that any COVID-19 cures remain months, if not a year, from widespread distribution in the U.S. The federal government is still struggling to provide basic medical supplies and personal protective equipment to health care providers.

Mnuchin vowed to stay on Capitol Hill for the next two weeks, determined to reach a deal by month’s end.

The proposed virus aid package would be the fifth, following the $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, the largest U.S. intervention of its kind. The jobless rate has remained in double digits, higher than in the last decade’s Great Recession, and a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units approved in the last bill is about to expire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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