Senate GOP looking at $1,200 in coronavirus cash payments

Senate Republicans are discussing providing Americans with $1,200 in direct cash assistance as part of a mammoth stimulus package, but the idea has sparked fierce division within the caucus.  

As part of a plan discussed during a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday, checks would go individuals who make up to $75,000. After that the amount of assistance would be scaled down until it is phased out completely at $95,000, according to Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal Senate falling behind on infrastructure Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (R-N.D.). 

“It’s similar to the 2008 payments,” Cramer said. “It is very middle class.” 

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The number is slightly higher than the $1,000 pitched by the administration as part of its stimulus package, which tops $1 trillion.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to unveil the Republican proposal on Thursday afternoon. 

GOP senators stressed that the details of the plan were still in flux, and the idea of providing direct cash assistance has sparked deep pushback from members of the Senate Republican caucus. 

“Here’s what I think. Direct payments make sense when the economy is beginning to start. It makes no sense now," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden DACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters after the lunch, adding that the number under discussion is "all over the board." 

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOvernight Defense: Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill | House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors | US increases airstrikes to help Afghan forces fight Taliban On The Money: Schumer, Warren call on Biden to extend student loan pause | IMF estimates 6 percent global growth this year Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (R-Ala.) added that he believed the direct cash payments should be "as a supplement unemployment, not to the people that are still working every day, you know, just a blanket cash check to everybody in America that’s making up to $75,000.”

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Shelby added that the direct cash payments is currently in the Senate GOP plan.

Cramer, asked if he thought the cash payment provision would end up in the final proposal unveiled by McConnell, added, "I'd bet on it, if I was a betting person."  

The idea of providing direct cash assistance to Americans has gained traction on Capitol Hill, with several Republicans, including Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (R-Mo.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMichelle Obama to Simone Biles: 'We are proud of you and we are rooting for you' Aly Raisman defends former teammate Biles: 'I'm proud of her' Mitt Romney praises Simone Biles following withdrawal from team event MORE (R-Utah), floating their own ideas. 

Supporters argue that it would help cover short-term costs, but opponents say it would not help stimulate the larger economy. 

Mnuchin has floated doing two tranches of $1,000 checks per person. Senate Republicans, however, say they are not yet sold on the need for a second round. 

"I think there's some discussion about whether there should be one and then wait," Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunCDC backtracks with new mask guidance GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation Rand Paul introducing measure to repeal public transportation mask mandates MORE (R-Ind.) said. 

Cramer added that "there’s some discussion of let’s do the first tranche ... and then in six weeks" see if a second tranche is needed.