McConnell Reveals Senate Relief Bill Will Include Stimulus Checks, School Funds

July 21, 2020 by Dan McCue
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks to his office at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, May 21, 2020 in Washington D.C. (Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday provided the most detailed description yet of what’s going to be in the Republican-controlled Senate’s next coronavirus relief proposal.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, McConnell said the GOP plan includes increased assistance for schools and small businesses, liability protections, and additional funding for coronavirus testing.

Not mentioned was how big the bill will be or whether it will include one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities, a payroll tax cut.

Instead, McConnell spoke of the U.S. job market, which he said “needs another shot of adrenaline.”

“Senate Republicans are laser-focused on getting American workers their jobs back,” the majority leader said.

In addition to another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, McConnell said the Republican proposal will reimburse businesses for expenses tied to protective equipment, testing and structural changes that need to be made to protect workers and customers.

He also said the proposal will include another round of stimulus checks to encourage consumer spending, but did not say who would qualify for those checks. Previously, McConnell suggested recipients of the second round of checks would be limited to those making up to $40,000 a year.

Perhaps the biggest reveal in McConnell’s comments Tuesday was that Senate Republicans plan to include $105 billion in support for schools.

He also said the GOP proposal will include more funding for testing and vaccines, though he did not provide a dollar amount.

The GOP bill is also expected to provide a five-year shield from lawsuits tied to coronavirus infections unless an entity engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

The immunity is to be extended to businesses, schools, hospitals and government agencies.

“Our proposal will dedicate even more resources to the fastest race for a new vaccine in human history, along with diagnostics and treatments,” McConnell said. “Our bill will also protect seniors from a potential spike in premiums. And the federal government will continue to support hospitals, providers, and testing.”

The whole package is expected to come to $1 trillion. Substantially less than the nearly $3 trillion provided by a bill that passed the House in late May.

But even as McConnell spoke, President Donald Trump’s negotiators were fanning out on Capitol Hill to discuss the aid package.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows were conferring with GOP senators before pivoting in the afternoon to Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, trying to meld the GOP’s emerging $1 trillion proposal with the House’s more sweeping $3 trillion bill.

However, divisions — between the White House and Capitol Hill and between GOP members in the Senate — abound.

While the White House wants a payroll tax cut in the bill many GOP senators are not on board.

Similarly, while the Senators want to fund more testing, the White House is cold towards the idea, equating more testing with more positive results, creating bad optics for the administration with the general election fast approaching.

Within the chamber, Republican Senators are also reportedly split over the need for another round of stimulus checks.

The Senate isn’t currently scheduled to leave Washington until Aug. 7, giving negotiators time to overcome these disagreements.

Still, time is of the essence, as the negotiators will also need to come to an agreement with the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would like to have an agreement by the end of next week.

Addressing that possibility on Tuesday, McConnell said, “I do not believe there will be anything in our bill that our Democratic colleagues should not happily support.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., disagreed, noting that it now appears Democratic priorities have been ignored, including an extension of the $600 per week federal increase in unemployment benefit.

“The [emerging GOP bill] will not get the job done,” he said.

“Instead of working with Democrats in either the Senate or the House, Leader McConnell has decided to write the bill behind the closed doors of his office. The same partisan, one-side only process that has failed time and time again to produce successful legislation in the Senate,” Schumer said.

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