Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday outlined the key elements he’d want to have included in the next coronavirus relief bill, opening the door to more direct payments to Americans making up to $40,000 a year and again insisting on legal protections for businesses.
McConnell said he would likely release a new bill in a few weeks. That would be the GOP’s starting point for negotiations with Democrats. Those talks, likely to start after Congress returns from a two-week recess on July 20, are expected to be contentious. “I can’t comfortably predict we’re going to come together and pass it unanimously like we did a few months ago — the atmosphere is becoming a bit more political than it was in March,” McConnell said, according to The Washington Post. “But I think we will do something again. I think the country needs one last boost.”
McConnell added that the coronavirus pandemic is clearly not over.
Another round of stimulus checks: McConnell said that the next coronavirus package “could well” include more stimulus checks, but suggested that the payments would be more narrowly targeted. “I think the people who’ve been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 a year or less,” including many hospitality industry workers, McConnell said.
Liability protections: McConnell guaranteed that the next bill would include liability protections to shield business, hospitals and schools against lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus. He said the protections would be “narrowly crafted” and that he envisions they will cover five years, from December 2019 through 2024. Democrats have opposed such a measure.
The bottom line: Once lawmakers return, they’ll have just a few weeks to hammer out a deal before their next recess. Right now they aren’t close.
“Instead of talking about writing a partisan bill in his office to help big corporations, Sen. McConnell ought to be working across the aisle to prevent mass evictions, a new hunger crisis, and the layoff of more essential state and local government employees,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday.
Congressional Republicans and Trump administration officials also face internal divisions on additional relief spending that could make it difficult to reach consensus. “I think the key right now is to try and get sort of the White House and Republicans on the Hill in the same place,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), according to the Post.