Jul 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Where coronavirus stimulus talks stand

Mark Meadows and Steven Mnuchin

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Capitol Hill. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

The consensus within the White House over the weekend is that they should turn their attention toward passing a smaller, bifurcated stimulus bill, focused on their main priorities.

The state of play: Chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were discouraged after their meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday, GOP congressional aides involved in the negotiations told Axios.

  • The two now think a more targeted bill has a greater shot at passing before key benefits from the CARES act, namely the unemployment benefits, expire at the end of this week.

Meadows told Axios: "I think [President Trump] made a pragmatic decision to say let's focus on unemployment insurance, schools and liability protection as the most important aspect of the larger package and deal with anything else later."

  • But Pelosi has repeatedly said she is against any short-term extension bill, and most Republicans think the strategy is a losing one.

The White House's primary areas of focus, per a White House official:

  1. Back-to-work tax credits (which the official said is essentially a retention credit).
  2. Extending unemployment insurance to 70% of a person's average wage before the COVID-19 crisis. This is a stark change from the $600 per week benefit unemployed Americans were receiving under the CARES Act.
  3. School funding: Schools will get $105 billion. That would include roughly $70 billion for K-12, but only half would be for all schools — the other half would only be for schools that are opening in person.
  4. Widespread liability insurance, including for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, universities and school districts.

The GOP bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to roll out on Monday, is expected to include all of them. But it will be a broader, $1 trillion package that contains other priorities as well, such as:

  • $25 billion for coronavirus testing.
  • Stimulus checks, which would be doled out under the same guidelines as in the CARES Act, meaning Americans who make $75K or less would receive the full benefit.
  • Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program. Small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that show a revenue loss of 50% would be able to apply for a second loan.

The White House, including Trump, has signed off on the bill with the hope they can negotiate it down to a "skinny" bill later on .

What’s next: Once the bill drops, negotiations with Democrats will begin in earnest.

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