The Trump administration’s proposal to inject $850 billion into the economy as the coronavirus pandemic becomes increasingly dire is facing resistance from Senate Democrats who are instead pushing their own alternative plan for relief.
The clash is a sign that the administration’s push marks just the start of what may be intense negotiations around what can be done next, even as lawmakers on both sides call for quick action.
In one clear sign that the new $850 billion plan that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pitching will run into resistance, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to contrast his own proposal for coronavirus response with the Trump administration’s plan during a conference call with Democratic senators at lunch, according to a Democratic leadership aide.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Schumer will outline his estimated $750 billion plan and “explain the contrast to the GOP’s expected proposals of industry bailout and tax cuts,” the aide said.
The competing plans highlight the challenge ahead for Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress as they grapple with what and how much they can do to provide relief for the American public as the coronavirus outbreak hits the United States with an increasingly dire impact.
Mnuchin plans to lay out to Senate Republicans at lunch on Tuesday the administration’s request for the next economic package, according to senators who met with him Monday night.
The cost of the package — as of Tuesday morning — will be roughly $850 billion, according to a source briefed. The final cost estimate is still being worked out.
Mnuchin said Monday as he left a meeting with GOP senators that he would talk to the Republicans on Tuesday about passing a “general” stimulus package that will be a “big number” but would not say what that figure is.
“We have a lot more work to do,” he said, “and we have to do it quickly.”
He described the actions taken by the administration and Congress as “business interruption insurance.”
The measure is expected to include aid to the airlines and small businesses, among other matters, sources and senators said.
White House signals sending direct payments to Americans
Mnuchin said at a briefing at the White House on Tuesday that the Trump administration is considering sending money directly to Americans in a bid to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Mnuchin told reporters.
Mnuchin said the administration was looking at ways to provide the checks within the next two weeks.
CNN asked President Donald Trump and Mnuchin about the logistics of an economic stimulus idea that could give $1,000 checks to Americans, which is gaining some bipartisan support.
Mnuchin expressed some support for the idea and indicated it would be discussed during his Capitol Hill meetings.
“I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks. But we like — that’s one of the ideas we like. We’re going to preview that today and then we’ll be talking about details afterwards,” Mnuchin said.
Trump chimed in, saying, “I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible. That may not be an accurate way of doing it because obviously some people shouldn’t be getting checks for $1,000. But we’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of the day what we’re going to be doing.”
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said that the $850 billion package Mnuchin is proposing is just the “earliest stage” of the negotiations over the next economic stimulus package.
“We have a list, the administration has a list — that’s how you start the process,” Durbin said of the package. “This is just the earliest stage of it.”
Durbin also said, “It’s way too early to project a number” on how much the airlines would need.
Calls to do more
Schumer also held a conference call with his Senate Democratic leadership team Tuesday morning to lay out his own $750 billion plan — and Democrats suggested even more additions, according to Durbin.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday that the Senate will not adjourn until they build on the coronavirus response legislation passed by the House so far, saying, “it’s my intention that the Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed”
On Monday, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for reelection, seemed skeptical about a bailout package for the airline industry. “I think we will have some debate over that,” she said.
“I’m worried about a bailout but we want to make sure that we are supporting industry. But I think we need to focus on the American worker right now rather than some of the large corporations,” Ernst said.
Calls to do more amid fallout from the spread of coronavirus are coming from both Republicans and Democrats. The question now is what senators on both sides of the aisle can agree to.
Schumer’s office detailed his proposal on Tuesday, which does not include aid to the airlines or a payroll tax cut, as the Trump administration is seeking.
“We are proposing an immediate and initial infusion of at least $750 billion to wage war against COVID-19 and the economic crisis it is now causing,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday.