Senate GOP to unveil coronavirus relief plan next week, McConnell says
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will unveil a coronavirus relief plan early next week.
- The timing all but assures Congress will miss a deadline to extend the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit.
Senate Republicans will delay the release of their coronavirus relief plan until next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday, assuring Congress will miss a deadline to extend a key unemployment insurance boost.
"The [Trump] administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down the proposal early next week," the Kentucky Republican said. "We have an agreement in principle on the shape of the package."
The GOP had hoped to unveil legislation as soon as Thursday, which would have kickstarted talks with Democrats on a bill that could pass both chambers of Congress. But Senate Republicans have not been able to nail down final details with the White House even as millions of jobless Americans move closer to a financial cliff.
States will stop paying out out the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit passed in March at the end of this week. The policy formally expires at the end of July.
Earlier Thursday, the top congressional Democrats hammered into GOP leaders for delays in releasing a plan on a day the U.S. reached the grisly benchmark of 4 million Covid-19 cases.
"The Republican disarray and dithering has serious, potentially deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
McConnell said the Republican plan would focus on "kids, jobs and health care." The plan would authorize an unspecified "temporary" federal supplement to state unemployment insurance, he said.
Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that the jobless benefit extension will be "based on approximately 70% wage replacement." That amount could come out to roughly $300 per week for the average worker.
Democrats support extending the $600 per week payment at least until economic conditions improve.
"I'm all for the $600 because people really need it," Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.
The Republican legislation will include $105 billion for starting up schools in the fall, with financial incentives tied to reopening.
McConnell added that it would include a second round of direct payments, but did not specify who would get checks and for how much money. The plan would allocate money for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for hard-hit small businesses, and shield businesses, doctors and universities from lawsuits except for cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, he said.
Mnuchin also said Thursday that a payroll tax holiday, a priority for Trump, "won't be in the base bill." Trump seemed to acknowledge he would not get his wish in a Thursday tweet as he blamed Democrats for blocking a payroll tax cut (though Republican leaders were also wary of the idea).
Republicans, who want their bill to cost roughly $1 trillion, will need Democratic support to pass legislation in both the Senate and House. Democrats, who pushed a $3 trillion rescue package through the House in May, do not consider the GOP spending plans adequate.
They want rent and mortgage assistance as a federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of the week. Democrats have also pushed for a hazard pay increase for essential workers.
The party's leaders have also pushed for more aid for cash-crunched state and local governments, which have warned they will have to cut back on employees or essential services due to the pandemic. The Republican proposal would not provide new money to states and municipalities but instead give them more flexibility in how to spend aid approved earlier this year, according to Mnuchin.
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