May 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

McConnell to Trump: Next coronavirus bill must be under $1 trillion

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed to President Trump that the next coronavirus relief package cannot exceed $1 trillion, and should be narrowly focused on getting money in people's hands immediately, sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

The big picture: Senate Republicans' backlash against House Democrats' $3 trillion bill has been so severe that it has eased pressure on McConnell to act instantly on a "phase 4" bill, and McConnell is focused on ensuring that the next bill is much smaller.

Details: McConnell told Trump the bill needs to be tailored toward short-term economic relief and create incentives for people to get back to work.

  • He said he worries that additional unemployment payments will discourage people from working, and instead suggested supplementing some workers' paychecks.

Left unsaid: In urging for a much smaller and immediate relief package, McConnell threw cold water on Trump's continued push to tie infrastructure spending to a stimulus bill.

  • "We're trying to steer away from an Obama stimulus package," one of the sources said.

Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were also present for the meeting. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy dialed in.

  • All agreed that liability protection needs to be a part of a phase 4 bill.

What's next: Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are still far away from finishing a draft bill, and continue to say they must wait to evaluate the economic impact of the CARES Act before passing another large stimulus package.

  • Mnuchin said in the meeting that he thinks waiting to assess the impact of CARES will help expose obvious deficiencies in certain sectors that won’t be obvious at the outset, per one of the sources familiar with the discussion.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters this afternoon that real negotiations won’t start until the third or fourth week of June.
  • Sen. Roy Blunt said passing a phase 4 bill by the July recess is “optimistic," but said legislation must be passed by August recess.
  • A leadership aide told Axios that that timeline seems accurate.
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