Democrats, for their part, continue to push a $3 trillion-plus relief package passed by the House two months ago, and they blasted Trump and GOP leadership for their failure to act even as the U.S. economy continues to falter.
“One of the reasons we’re up against this cliff is because Republicans have dithered,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, noting that he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Republicans to come to the table three weeks ago but never received a response. “Nothing, now we’re up against the cliff.”
The Senate GOP and the White House, Schumer said, are “so divided, so disorganized, so unprepared that they have struggled to even draft a partisan proposal within their own conference.”
Beyond the snafu over unemployment payments, there were other differences among Senate Republicans and the White House that took days to iron out, despite the looming elections just over 100 days away.
There will be no payroll tax cut sought by Trump in the new plan, although Mnuchin told CNBC that there “could be CARES 5.0.” There will be additional direct payments sent to millions of Americans, with the same income limits as set in the first CARES Act.
The GOP proposal will call for at least $500 billion in new spending following an agreement between the White House and Senate Republican appropriators, despite strong opposition from some conservative Republicans.
This total covers hundreds of billions for the Health and Human Services Department and Pentagon, farmer and infrastructure programs. States will get $25 billion to improve coronavirus testing, according to a deal reached Wednesday between Senate appropriators, Mnuchin and Meadows, while tens of billions more will go to the National Institutes of Health, community health centers and other health programs.
The Senate GOP proposal also allocates $105 billion for reopening schools, a top priority for Republicans, with schools that reopen for in-person instruction getting more money.
The Paycheck Protection Program — run by the Small Business Administration — will receive another $90 billion to make loans, including to companies that already received money. There still remains $100 billion of unspent Paycheck Protection Program funds, which will cover the cost of the new effort.
In addition, McConnell is drawing a red line with liability protection. Businesses, schools and other organizations would receive protection from lawsuits arising from exposure to coronavirus due to reopening. Lawsuits would be moved to federal courts, and plaintiffs would have to show “gross negligence” by employers in order to win.
The GOP proposal comes after days of negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans over key measures including the payroll tax cut, which most Senate Republicans opposed. McConnell also faces internal divide within his caucus over the $1 trillion price tag.
Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on any deal, with just over two weeks to go until the August recess. Pelosi and Schumer have made the House-passed $3 trillion Heroes Act their starting point and are calling for extension of the boosted unemployment benefits, which Republicans argue provide a disincentive for individuals to go back to work.
Quint Forgey and Sarah Ferris contributed to this story.