WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to release the GOP’s latest coronavirus aid package on Monday after the proposal, which is expected to include a second round of checks, hit roadblocks within the Republican party this last week.
Still at issue Saturday in the expected $1 trillion GOP aid plan remained how to handle expiring unemployment benefits for some 30 million Americans, the location of the Federal Bureau of Investigation building in downtown Washington, and other issues.
Not at issue: Direct payments to Americans.
President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell were all in agreement that there should be another round of $1,200 direct payments to most Americans at a cost approaching $300 billion. And though some stumbling blocks may remain in approving McConnell’s plan, there appears to be little opposition to this portion of the package.
Many are hopeful the aid package can be approved next week ahead of coronavirus unemployment insurance expiring. While some Republicans suggested unemployment be broken out into its own small bill that can be approved ahead of the deadline, Democrats weren’t interested in the idea. They’re hopeful to get a robust package passed as soon as possible.
In a speech Thursday, McConnell confirmed his proposal would include checks along with aid for schools, money for testing, changes to unemployment assistance rules, more money for small businesses, and a liability shield to protect businesses and schools from coronavirus-related lawsuits, according to The Washington Post.
In addition to Trump and GOP senators being at odds over priorities, Democrats argue that the Republican proposals won’t be enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and provide the amount of needed aid to jobless Americans.
Some Republicans aren’t excited about the $1 trillion price tag.
“I’m not going to vote for it if it’s just a bunch of spending on random issues for special interests. I’m not going to vote for bailouts … . If it’s not focused on jobs and actually getting people back to work, I’m not voting for it,” Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, also a Republican, says she’s more flexible.
“I think (the dollar figure) is something that we should always be concerned about as well, but then we also have to look at life and safety,” Ernst said.
House Democrats previously pushed out the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion bill that included $275 billion for testing and healthcare worker hazard pay, and $1 trillion for state and local governments. It was approved in May and included another round of $1,200 checks to American adults and children. Republicans argued that the price tag was far too high and immediately began pushing for their own plan.
If the plan makes it through Congress next week, it’s possible checks could be distributed in mid to late August, according to a report from CNET.
“The president’s preference is to make sure that we send out direct payments quickly so that in August people get more money. There is no question this worked before,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this week in a CNBC interview.
Lawmakers need to act with some urgency. The Senate is set for a recess after Friday, August 7 that would run through Labor Day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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