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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 CramerRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win 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 McConnellHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' On The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Nearly one-third of US adults expect to lose employment income: Census Bureau 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 GrahamDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters after the lunch, adding that the number under discussion is "all over the board." 

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTop GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week McConnell: COVID-19 relief will be added to omnibus spending package Bipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal 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 HawleyTime to bring federal employees home for every holiday Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls The Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump MORE (R-Mo.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary 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 BraunRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Meadows meets with Senate GOP to discuss end-of-year priorities McConnell reelected as Senate GOP leader 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.