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.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated Sep 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Armageddon option

A makeshift memorial outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Furious Democrats are considering total war — profound changes to two branches of government, and even adding stars to the flag — if Republicans jam through a Supreme Court nominee then lose control of the Senate.

On the table: Adding Supreme Court justices ... eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end filibusters ... and statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. "If he holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021," Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) tweeted.

AOC and Schumer vow "unprecedented" action to fight Trump's Supreme Court plans

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during an April press conference in New York City. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on voters Sunday to contact senators and urge them to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's wish that she not be replaced until a new president is installed.

Details: Schumer noted during their news conference "we only need two more senators who will abide by RGB's wish," after Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins said they'd oppose holding a Senate confirmation vote on President Trump's nomination to replace the late Supreme Court justice before November's election.

Susan Collins says Senate should postpone Supreme Court vote

Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement Saturday she believes whoever is elected in the 2020 presidential race should pick the nominee to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat.

Why it matters: Collins will be key in how the nomination process plays out. As one of the most centrist Senate Republicans, whether or not the Senate confirms Trump's SCOTUS nominee could hinge on her vote.

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