Top Republicans on Capitol Hill are pumping the brakes on new coronavirus stimulus spending days after House Democrats pushed forward with a sweeping relief package, underscoring a deep partisan divide as the nation grapples with the pandemic.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said Tuesday that he does not currently see a need for another relief package, telling CNN there’s been no change in his posture despite meeting earlier in the day with Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the economy.
“I don’t see the need right now,” he said of another package. McCarthy said they talked about the economy, the number of states opening back up and progress in testing.
Asked if there’s been a change in his posture against moving now on another relief package, he replied, “No.”
Pence planned to discuss “economic impacts of the coronavirus” during his meeting with Mnuchin, McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier Tuesday morning, according to a source familiar with the Vice President’s meeting on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday afternoon, McConnell said that the Senate will wait a couple weeks to decide on a phase four stimulus bill, following the remarks from the President after a Republican conference lunch.
“We’ll discuss a way forward in the next couple weeks,” McConnell said.
Meanwhile, the House plans to vote next week on changes to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the first sign that Democrats are willing to advance narrow pieces of legislation following their passage of a $3 trillion package last week, according to aides. The program was set up as part of an earlier relief plan — the CARES Act — to help small businesses continue to pay workers during the crisis.
The provisions, which were included in the Democratic stimulus bill, would eliminate the so-called 75/25 rule, which requires recipients of PPP money to use three-quarters of the money on payroll costs and limit other costs to no more than 25%.
The bill also would extend the eight-week period to use the money to 24 weeks.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy told reporters that President Donald Trump seemed to “indicate he recognizes another (stimulus) bill is necessary,” when someone raised the issue of additional relief legislation during Tuesday’s GOP lunch.
“I was satisfied with that,” said the Louisiana senator, who has been pushing for more state and local aid.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that Trump was open to a phase four, but non committal on how or when to do it.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate from Maine, said it was “premature” to know for sure if Trump would support doing a phase four bill.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday criticized Republicans in the chamber for not taking action to advance a new Covid-19 stimulus plan.
“Looking at the floor of the United States Senate, you’d never guess that we are in the middle of a national economic crisis,” he said, lamenting that “Leader McConnell has not scheduled any legislative business related to the coronavirus.”
Later Tuesday, however, Schumer indicated that he’s confident that the toll taken by the crisis will eventually lead to bipartisan agreement. “I predict that will happen — the American people will force leader McConnell and his Republican colleagues to the table to get a robust bill.”
House Democrats on Friday passed a sweeping $3 trillion coronavirus relief measure outlining their priorities for responding to the crisis, including more money for state and local governments, testing and direct payments to Americans. The bill was not the product of bipartisan negotiations, however, and passed largely along party lines. Congressional Republicans have made clear it is dead on arrival in the Senate.
With the four previous coronavirus relief measures that have been signed into law, House Democrats collaborated with Senate Republicans and the Trump administration to negotiate bipartisan agreements.
But it remains unclear whether a bipartisan consensus can be reached on yet another package, despite the fact that the American public and US economy continue to feel the devastating impact of the disease.
The Trump administration has said repeatedly that it is taking a “wait and see” approach toward another stimulus package, awaiting economic indicators as states begin to reopen.
If the economy continues the momentum that has already begun, then the first three packages, economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters Monday, are “enough.” But, he said, if that doesn’t happen, the President is prepared to sign a phase four bill.
“It’s possible we’ll see a strong enough economy that we won’t need a phase four,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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