WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus aid plan Monday that includes a second round of direct payments to Americans.
McConnell introduced the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools) Act during a speech on the Senate floor on Monday.
“We have one foot in the pandemic and one foot in the recovery. The American people need more help,” McConnell said.
Also on Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer called the stimulus proposal “totally inadequate.”
“They can’t even put one bill together they are so divided,” Schumer said.
Despite issues that remain over some items in the aid package, direct payments are expected to easily make it through bipartisan negotiations. President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell were all in agreement that there should be another round of $1,200 in money for most Americans.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday the next round of direct payments would be based on the same formula from the earlier aid bill. Then, people making $75,000 or less received the full amount and those making more than $75,000 received less, depending on their income. People earning above $100,000 did not qualify for the payment.
“We’re prepared to move quickly,” Mnuchin said after he and Mark Meadows, the president’s acting chief of staff, spent several hours with GOP staff over the weekend at the Capitol. He said the president would “absolutely” support the emerging Republican package.
Republican disputes over what to do with enhanced unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of July kept the $1 trillion plan from being unveiled last week.
The White House and GOP lawmakers reportedly settled on trimming the temporary federal unemployment benefit from $600 weekly to about 70% of pre-pandemic wages — a move that didn’t sit well with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats.
McConnell’s HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools) Act was expected to include $105 billion to help reopen schools, $25 billion for virus testing and McConnell’s top priority of a liability shield to protect businesses, hospitals and others against COVID-19 lawsuits.
Though McConnell and The White House came to an agreement on an aid package, not all GOP Senators are happy with the plan.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he doesn’t support the GOP legislation as proposed. He argued for lifting taxes and regulations he says are “hammering” small businesses. Cruz also argued for a payroll tax cut, which will not be in the bill. President Donald Trump had insisted on a temporary trim of payroll taxes, but both parties resisted the idea.
Cruz alleged that Pelosi isn’t working to solve either the virus crisis or the economic one.
“Her objectives are shoveling cash at the problem and shutting America down,” he said. “It’s just shoveling money to her friends and not actually solving the problem.”
If GOP Senate plan makes it through Congress this week, it’s possible checks could be distributed in mid to late August, according to a report from CNET.
“The president’s preference is to make sure that we send out direct payments quickly so that in August people get more money. There is no question this worked before,” Mnuchin said last week in a CNBC interview.
Lawmakers need to act with some urgency. The Senate is set for a recess after Friday, August 7 that would run through Labor Day.