Mnuchin, Meadows to brief Senate GOP Tuesday on new COVID-19 relief bill
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will come to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief Senate Republicans on the forthcoming coronavirus relief bill.
The two will meet with Republicans during their Tuesday closed-door caucus lunch, the first time the caucus as a whole will meet since returning to Washington.
Mnuchin — speaking with reporters during a White House meeting with President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Meadows — said that the focus of the legislation will be “kids and jobs and vaccines.”
“Mark and I will be meeting tomorrow with the Republicans at a lunch to give them a full briefing, and then we will also be reaching out to the Democrats to begin our discussions,” Mnuchin said, adding that they were “committed” to getting a bill done by the end of the month.
In addition to a briefing with the two administration officials, who are expected to lead the talks with Congress, McConnell will begin “socializing” the bill with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, when the caucus will meet for the first time since before the two-week July 4 recess.
Republicans are trying to lock down an agreement with the White House on a fifth coronavirus bill as Congress faces intense pressure to act while cases climb in states across the country. Congress will be in town for a matter of weeks before lawmakers are scheduled to leave town until early September.
Lawmakers face several hurdles to reaching a deal, including differences over how much to spend.
The Democratic-controlled House passed a roughly $3 trillion bill in late May; McConnell and the White House have said they want a top-line figure around $1 trillion, though that number could creep up.
Some parts of the forthcoming GOP bill are already taking shape: Republicans are expected to include a five-year liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits except in the cases of gross negligence and intentional misconduct.
Meadows also told Fox News during an interview on Sunday that $70 billion would be included for schools.
Mnuchin indicated on Monday that they would try to incentivize a return to work, including providing tax credits to help cover the cost of protective equipment.
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t pay people more money to stay at home and go to work,” Mnuchin said in an apparent reference to a $600 per week increase to unemployment insurance that Republicans have said they will not continue. That increase is set to expire at the end of the month.
Mnuchin also said the administration wants to include tax credits to “incentivize businesses to bring people back to work” and to buy protective equipment to ensure a safe working environment.
Democrats view the extension of the unemployment benefits as a top priority in the next round of negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated in a letter to Senate Democrats on Monday that he expects the GOP proposal to fall short on unemployment benefits.
“Unfortunately, by all accounts the Senate Republicans are drafting legislation that comes up short in a number of vital areas, such as extending unemployment benefits or funding for rental assistance, hazard premium pay for frontline workers, or investments in communities of color being ravaged by the virus, and many other necessary provisions,” he wrote.