Trump's push for payroll tax cut sparks GOP pushback

Top Republican senators are warning they oppose including a payroll tax cut in the next coronavirus relief bill, even though it's a top priority for President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-Iowa) warned on Monday that he believes the move would create a public relations headache for Republicans.

"Go to the fact that Social Security people think we're raiding the Social Security fund. And we are raiding it, but we have always put in general fund revenue in it so it is made whole. But that creates — it might create political problems — but it creates a public relations problem," Grassley told reporters on Monday.

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Asked about including a payroll tax cut, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House GOP senator on Trump accepting nomination at White House: 'Is that even legal?' Trump says he's considering White House as venue for GOP nomination acceptance speech MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told The Hill it would depend on where the “consensus” is, but that he did not personally support a payroll tax cut.

“I’m not a fan of that. I’ve made that pretty clear,” he said.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms States begin removing Capitol's Confederate statues on their own Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Ky.), also warned a it would be "problematic."

"I think it's problematic because obviously the trust funds for Social Security and Medicare are already on their way to insolvency. ... I'm not a fan," Cornyn said.

The pushback from Republican senators comes as GOP leadership and the administration have spent two weeks swapping ideas about what to include in the next coronavirus proposal. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms On The Money: White House warns there's likely no deal with no agreement by Friday | More generous unemployment benefits lead to better jobs: study | 167K workers added to private payrolls in July Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House Overnight Defense: Esper says 'most believe' Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says 'nobody knows yet' what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID'd as fourth military COVID-19 death MORE are expected to meet with Republican senators on Tuesday to brief them.

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Trump touted the payroll tax cut during a meeting with GOP leadership, Meadows and Mnuchin on Monday, telling reporters that it was under discussion.

"I think it's a very important thing. ... I think it's an incentive for companies to hire their workers back. ... A payroll tax cut to me is very important," the president told reporters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker Bass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency MORE (R-Calif.) — who took part in the White House meeting — told reporters afterward that a payroll tax cut was expected to be in the Republican legislation.

McConnell sidestepped a question on Monday about whether it would be in the bill. He indicated over the two-week break that Republicans were looking at another round of stimulus checks but with a lower income ceiling for qualifying.

The CARES Act in March allowed individuals who made up to $75,000 a year to get a one-time payment of $1,200; McConnell has indicated lawmakers could lower that cap to people who earn roughly $40,000.

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The administration has repeatedly pushed for a payroll tax cut to be included in coronavirus relief packages. But the effort has garnered pushback from both Republicans and Democrats, who warn that it won't stimulate an economy that has been battered by businesses that were closed or scaled back due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Grassley on Monday said he thought a direct check would have a bigger impact on Americans.

"I think when a person has a check in his hand, X number of dollars .... I think that is going to do more economic good than if we dribble out $30 every paycheck because people are going to notice it," he said.

He added that if Republicans were going to stick to their topline of roughly $1 trillion, which Mnuchin said he viewed as a starting point, he did not think both direct checks and a payroll tax cut could be included.

"I don't think you can fit them both in," Grassley said.

— Updated at 4:58 p.m.