McConnell details GOP proposal for third coronavirus bill
Senate Republicans are finalizing their proposal for the third tranche of coronavirus aid, which is expected to be unveiled Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking from the Senate floor, outlined what will be included in the Republican package and said lawmakers must take “bold steps” amid the growing outbreak.
“It is critical that we move swiftly and boldly to begin to stabilize our economy, preserve Americans’ jobs, get money to workers and families and keep up our fight on the health front. That is exactly, exactly what our proposal will do,” McConnell said.
“These are not ordinary policies. This is no ordinary time,” he added.
The GOP proposal focuses on four areas: small businesses; direct financial help for Americans; help for impacted industries; and boosting the public health response to the coronavirus.
For small businesses, McConnell said the GOP proposal will include “hundreds of billions” in loans to help “address the immediate cash-flow problems.” The GOP proposal is expected to forgive the portion of loans that go toward paying workers or other payments like rent.
The overall goal is to “get cash to small business [as] fast & easy as possible so they don’t have to lay people off,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is spearheading the Senate GOP’s deliberations on business aid. “If they use it for that purpose doesn’t have to be paid back.”
The GOP plan will include additional tax relief for businesses to try to help them maintain their payroll while firms are closed or restricted in response to the coronavirus.
The legislation is also expected to provide direct cash assistance to some Americans. Republicans are considering putting an income cap on who would get the cash assistance —$75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a couple.
“Chairman Grassley and a number of our colleagues are finalizing a structure that will get assistance to individuals and families as rapidly as possible … from the middle class on down,” McConnell said.
The idea of cutting checks for Americans has sparked some pushback within the Senate GOP caucus. But senators say they expect the provision has enough support to be included in the package being unveiled by Republicans.
“For Americans who are still working, the money would provide some extra certainty in this uniquely uncertain time and help remind everyone that temporary shutdowns at bars and restaurants does not mean all commerce has to halt,” McConnell said, explaining why Republicans support the measure.
The GOP bill is also expected to provide loans to “industries of national importance,” including airlines.
McConnell dismissed talk of the assistance as a “bailout,” noting the industries were impacted by a health crisis that was beyond their control.
“We’re not talking about so-called bailouts for firms that made reckless decisions. Nobody is alleging a moral hazard here,” he said.
Republicans are racing to pass a third coronavirus package, with McConnell saying he wants to move at “warp speed.”
McConnell is expected to sit down with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) later Thursday as they start negotiations on the package, which could top $1 trillion.
Senators and aides expect they will work through the weekend — a rarity for the chamber, underscoring the belief that Congress needs to act quickly to counter a virus that has taken a toll on the country’s economy.
Schumer added on Thursday that he is “eager” to negotiate with McConnell, but stressed that American workers should be the primary beneficiaries of the legislation.
“We are ready and eager to look at what Republicans have put together and to work with them, but we believe that whatever proposal emerges — and it will be bipartisan — that it must be a workers-first proposal,” he said.