McConnell opens door to direct payments in next coronavirus bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) appeared to open the door on Monday to including some direct payments to Americans in a future coronavirus relief bill. 

Asked if funding for individuals like the stimulus checks included in a March package would be in the next piece of legislation, which would be the fifth in response to COVID-19, McConnell said they "could well" be.

"I think the people that have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 or less. Many of them work in the hospitality industry. .... That could well be a part of it," McConnell said. 

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Congress included a $1,200 one-time payment for individuals making up to $75,000 per year in the $2.2 trillion March coronavirus stimulus package. The amount a person could receive then decreased until it hit a salary ceiling of $99,000 per year, where the direct payment was phased out altogether. 

McConnell's comments, made during a stop in Kentucky, suggest that Republicans could be looking at a lower ceiling for a potential second round of direct assistance. 

The Trump administration has pushed for a second round of the direct payments to be included in the next coronavirus relief package taken up by Congress. House Democrats passed a nearly $3 trillion bill in May that included a $1,200 check for individuals, similar to the March bill, but that legislation is not expected to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE said late last month that he supports another round of stimulus checks. 

But GOP lawmakers have been wary, believing that the payments don't directly stimulate the economy and went to individuals who have not been impacted financially by the spread of the coronavirus. After at first embracing big spending, Republicans appear increasingly concerned about the country's growing debt. 

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Talk of doing a second round of stimulus checks comes as Congress is expected to begin formally negotiating the fifth coronavirus bill later this month, when lawmakers return to Washington on July 20. 

McConnell said Monday that he believed a fifth bill would be necessary and that he would introduce legislation in a few weeks.

"I'll be unveiling something, which will be a starting place, in a few weeks, and we'll then be dealing with the administration and the Democrats and all the rest. ... I think we will do something again. I think the country needs one last boost," he said. 

The bill is expected to include a second round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, with a key group of senators currently debating including a revenue-loss test as part of tighter requirements to qualify for more assistance. 

McConnell also said on Monday that Republicans were looking at a shield from lawsuits for businesses, hospitals and schools that would be retroactive back to December 2019 and run through 2024. 

"If you're looking for what I think the theme of what a next package that I'm likely to roll out here in a few weeks would focus on: liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care, that's where the focus, it seems to me, ought to be," McConnell said.