The Republicans still haven’t decided amongst themselves how they’re going to deal with that boost going away, but they’re talking about a temporary flat payment on top of regular UI in an immediate, short-term extension. The White House hasn’t signed on to this idea. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told NBC: “We’re really looking at trying to make sure that we have a comprehensive bill that deals with the issues. (…) Any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension.” That’s a remarkable statement from someone who served in Congress during all the maniacal Freedom Caucus years in which government has been funded by a long-running series of short-term extensions of continuing resolutions. But he’s in the White House now, where making shit up is a job requirement.
McConnell is offering up a $500 billion to $1 trillion package, which is maybe a tenth of what’s really needed. Among the concrete numbers on offer, it has $25 billion for coronavirus testing with $9 billon being repurposed from previously appropriated funds. This is apparently a compromise with the White House, with Trump pushing for no money at all for testing. Republicans have agreed amongst themselves to give $70 billion to K-12 schools—half of it earmarked for schools that have reopened to try to force that issue—and another $30 billion to colleges and universities, which is not tied to reopening. Democrats are calling for $400 billion for all schools.
There is agreement on another round of direct payments, but they haven’t decided amongst themselves how much that payment would be and who would be eligible for it. They have decided that the problem-plagued Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be extended with $90 billion pulled from $100 billion that hasn’t been spent from the first few rounds. (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.) Companies that have already gotten PPP loans would be able to get second ones. McConnell remains insistent that it include liability protection for businesses, schools, and other organizations that expose people to coronavirus in reopening. Plaintiffs would have to bring suits in federal courts, and they would have to prove “gross negligence” by employers in order to win. What the proposal won’t have is the payroll tax cut Trump has been obsessing over for months, because everyone but Trump realizes it’s a stupid idea.
Democrats will come to the table with the $3 trillion HEROES Act as their starting point, and Mnuchin and McConnell are going to have to work with them to get the next round passed. McConnell is losing Republicans on any deal. Sen. Rick Scott of coronavirus-ravaged Florida says he’d block the next bill because “Democrats just want to spend money.” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says “I don’t think at this point in time, in the next three weeks, (we can) quickly rush through another trillion dollars of spending. I just don’t see the need for it.” He. Just. Doesn’t. See. The. Need. For. It.
More details are expected to emerge on Thursday as meetings with Mnuchin, Meadows, and congressional leadership continue.