Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may introduce the GOP stimulus plan as soon as Thursday with a series of bills that would serve as an opening to negotiations with Democrats.
Republicans and the White House reached agreement Wednesday evening on the spending portion of their stimulus plan, a breakthrough that will help ease the way for McConnell to offer “a handful of bills” that will form the virus relief package designed to kick-start bipartisan talks, said Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership.
“It will probably be several bills that come together as a package,” Blunt told reporters after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “They will all be available tomorrow, or maybe a little later than tomorrow. But the goal is tomorrow.”
Mnuchin and Meadows have been meeting with Republican senators to reconcile differences within the party about what to include in their $1 trillion counterproposal to Democrats, who’ve put a $3.5 trillion virus relief plan on the table. Other key parts of the package have yet to be resolved, including plans to extend expiring unemployment benefits.
Mnuchin, Meadows and the lawmakers involved in Wednesday talks said nothing about the payroll tax holiday that President Donald Trump has said he wants in the package.
Trump and Congress are facing a narrow window to keep the economic damage from the resurgent pandemic from worsening before the November elections. Programs in the last stimulus, passed in March, are beginning to expire and lawmakers are scheduled to leave town for an August break in less than three weeks.
Mnuchin said the administration and Senate Republicans are “completely on the same page,” and Meadows expressed optimism the deal with bolster chances of a final bill that reaches the White House.
“I think we feel very good at where we’ve ended up with numbers,” Meadows said. “We’re looking forward to passing a bill and getting across the finish line.”
Reaching agreement on the spending portion of the proposal covers a broad swath of the plan. Among the provisions are another round of direct payments to individuals; $105 billion in aid for schools, some of it earmarked for those that reopen classrooms; and $25 billion to expand virus testing.
It’s not clear whether McConnell will try to call a vote on the GOP proposal or go straight into negotiations on a compromise plan with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Any final plan will need the support of Democrats to pass the House and Senate.
Mnuchin had set a goal of final passage by the end of the month. But that’s an ambitious target given resistance from some GOP senators about still more deficit spending and how far apart Democrats and Republicans are on the price tag for another stimulus.
— With assistance by Erik Wasson
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