Republicans to start unveiling coronavirus package Thursday

Senate Republicans are set to start unveiling at least part of their forthcoming coronavirus relief proposal on Thursday. 

The package will not be one bill, but instead be broken up into several bills, according to Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Pelosi to require masks on House floor MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, with the goal of releasing them all on Thursday. 

"I think what the leader has decided he wants to do is to have a handful of bills now instead of just one bill," Blunt told reporters on Wednesday evening. 

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He added that it's possible a release on some portions of the bill could split past Thursday, but "the goal is tomorrow to get all of those bills out there." 

Republicans have been negotiating amongst themselves and with the White House as they try to craft an agreement on what they view as an opening offer for talks on a fifth coronavirus package. 

"So far we've had a rational discussion. Nobody's stabbed anybody or anything," said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

They reached an agreement on part of that Wednesday night dealing with money for schools and testing. Senators involved in those talks said they would be releasing legislative text on Thursday. 

As part of the agreement, the White House and Senate Republicans agreed to $16 billion in new funding for testing and re-focusing another $9 billion in unspent funds from the March $2.2 trillion bill toward testing. 

For schools, they agreed to a total of $105 billion, including $70 billion for K-12 and $30 billion for colleges. Only half of the K-12 funding will be tied to schools holding in-person or hybrid classes, while the money for colleges would not be tied to in-person classes. 

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"We'll have a package tomorrow for you," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig Shelby33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Overnight Defense: Senate GOP coronavirus bill includes .4B for Pentagon | US, Australia focus on China in key meeting MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters about the portion of the bill that he has been negotiating on with Blunt, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag MORE (R-Tenn.), Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) previously told reporters on Tuesday that he would be releasing the GOP coronavirus proposal in a "few days," an indication that he was planning to release it this week. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, told reporters that he expected the GOP measure will be released this week. The Senate typically leaves town on Thursdays. 

The total price tag for all of the bills is expected to be around $1 trillion. McConnell has indicated that he wants to keep the cost of the bill down, but even that figure has sparked fierce criticism from members of his caucus. 

Several parts of the forthcoming GOP proposal are already taking shape. 

The GOP measure is also expected to include a five-year shield from lawsuits related to coronavirus infections unless an entity — like a business, school, government agency or hospital — was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct. 

It isn't expected to include new funding for state and local governments — a big priority for Democrats and a small group of Republican senators — but instead provide more flexibility for the $150 billion already appropriated in the March coronavirus package. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' Pompeo: Trump taking action on Chinese software firms 'in coming days' MORE (R-Fla.) said on Wednesday they will also use roughly $100 billion in unspent money to fund a second tranche of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. But he caveated that they hadn't "settled" yet on how much additional money the program could need. 

But two of the biggest sticking points — what to do about unemployment benefits and whether or not to include a payroll tax cut — remain undecided. 

As part of the March bill, Congress beefed up unemployment benefits by $600 per week. That's set to expire next week, adding pressure on lawmakers to quickly reach an agreement. 

But ideas being tossed around the GOP caucus range from cutting the $600 entirely, to scaling down the plus up or trying to tie it to a person's previous wages. 

GOP senators on Wednesday floated doing a short-term extension to provide a bridge between the expiration of the current benefits to Congress's next bill, but the idea was shot down by top White House officials and senior GOP senators.  

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And GOP senators left a closed-door lunch on Wednesday saying there had been no decision on including the payroll tax cut, which is a top priority for President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE

Administration officials and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDon't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol MORE (R-Calif.) said earlier this week that they thought it was in the forthcoming proposal. 

But several GOP senators have warned that in order to keep the GOP top-line around $1 trillion, they might have to pick between another round of stimulus checks, which McConnell favors, or including the payroll tax cut. 

Thune noted that while the checks have their own detractors within the caucus, overall they have more support than a payroll tax cut. 

“There are people who aren’t for the checks either, but my sense is ... there’s not much, I would say, support for the payroll-tax cut,” Thune said. “There is considerable support for stimulus checks if we’re going to do something on an individual, personal level.”