Trump to propose payroll tax cut over coronavirus

President Trump on Monday said the White House will ask Congress to approve a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly workers to combat the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

“This was something that we were thrown into and we’re going to handle it, and we have been handling it,” Trump told reporters in the White House briefing room.

Administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow are expected to meet with Republican lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss the potential stimulus measures.

Trump also said he would be asking the Small Business Administration to issue loans to small businesses and that the administration was working with airlines and the hotel and cruise industries, which have been especially impacted by the spread of the virus. 

The president said he and other White House officials will hold a press conference Tuesday after meeting with senators to discuss “major” economic proposals.

The president’s remarks followed another volatile day for the global stock market amid growing concerns about the coronavirus, which has spread to more than 100 countries and territories, including 35 states in the U.S. as well as Washington, D.C. 

All three major stock indexes plunged more than 7 percent Monday over fears that a burgeoning oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia would fuel a deeper economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

Economists have warned that policymakers must take action to stimulate the economy, fend off job losses and protect small and midsize businesses to avoid a recession.

Trump has downplayed the threat of the coronavirus to the economy and tried to blame the media and Democrats for stoking fears about it. He insisted Monday evening that the U.S. economy was strong even as he announced the new steps. 

“We have a very strong economy,” Trump told reporters. “But this has blindsided the world.”

Vice President Pence told reporters that Trump had encouraged the White House coronavirus task force to prioritize support for hourly workers concerned about going to work even if they were ill.

“The president has tasked the team with developing economic policies that will make it very, very clear we will stand by those hard-working Americans … and make it possible for us … to put the health of America first,” Pence said.

Trump has made the strength of the economy a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, often touting the low unemployment rate, stock market gains and other indicators on the campaign trail. 

Kudlow said last week that the Trump administration was considering “targeted” economic relief for certain sectors hurting from the coronavirus. Administration officials have rejected the idea of a larger stimulus package, and Kudlow, like Trump, has insisted that the economy remains strong. 

Kudlow has rejected the idea of a payroll tax cut in the past as part of a prospective “tax cuts 2.0” package designed to improve the economy in the long run. Conservative lawmakers have been reluctant to embrace a payroll tax cut, but may be forced to acquiesce given the extraordinary circumstances.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Larry Kudlow Payroll tax cut Steven Mnuchin

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