Senate Republicans were forced to delay the rollout of their $1 trillion coronavirus relief package today after failing to resolve policy disagreements with the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was set to introduce his COVID-19 bill on the Senate floor this morning and shift to negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) early next week. However, a last-minute visit from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows scuttled McConnell’s timing.
The White House is reportedly at odds with Senate Republicans over plans for handling an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of next week. Senate Republicans have also rejected the White House’s preference for a payroll tax cut as part of the package. Mnuchin and Meadows reportedly floated the idea of breaking up COVID-19 relief provisions into separate, smaller pieces of legislation – an idea that neither Republicans nor Democrats support.
“We’d like to do everything, but if we can’t do everything the priority is we’d like to address [unemployment insurance], schools, and liability quickly,” Mnuchin said after meeting with McConnell.
Pelosi immediately shot down the suggestion of a piecemeal approach to COVID response. “No, no no,” she said today. “This is a package. We cannot piecemeal this.”
Democrats want to use the $3 trillion Heroes Act, passed by the House in May, as a starting point in the negotiations. Details on McConnell’s package are still trickling out but the Senate leader is insistent on liability protections for employers and financial incentives for schools to reopen, among other priorities. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), operated by the Small Business Administration, is also addressed in McConnell’s bill but ASAE is still working to determine whether PPP eligibility will be extended to 501(c)(6) associations and what guardrails or qualifiers are put on that eligibility. Regardless, whenever the bill is introduced, it will need to be negotiated with congressional Democrats who blamed McConnell and Senate Republicans for waiting so long to put forth a plan.