Trump Wants a Deal on Relief Bill

Trump Wants a Deal on Relief Bill

Printer-friendly version
Plus - More stimulus checks?
Tuesday, September 1, 2020

White House Says It Wants a Deal on Covid Relief

Appearing before a House panel investigating the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday that the White House is ready to renew the stalled negotiations over the next relief bill.

"Let me say, I very much agree with you and those other experts that more fiscal response is needed," Mnuchin said. "The president and I want to move forward with more fiscal response. I'm prepared to sit down with the Speaker at any time to negotiate." He told Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) that he would call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as soon as the hearing was over.

The size of the relief package is still very much an issue, however. Mnuchin said he did not support the $2.2 trillion package proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), which was offered as a compromise position. Republicans have offered $1.3 trillion, but have shown no interest in going higher, and may not have solid internal support for any additional relief spending.

Still, Mnuchin highlighted the areas where the two sides appear to agree. "I believe a bipartisan agreement still should be reached," Mnuchin said, "and would provide substantial funds for schools, testing, vaccines, PPP for small businesses, continued enhanced unemployment benefits, child care, nutrition, agriculture, and the U.S. Postal Service, along with liability protection for universities, schools, and businesses."

Senate eyes "skinny" bill. Senate Republicans hope to introduce a slimmed-down $500 billion coronavirus relief bill next week, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday. The bill will be "more targeted" than the $3.4 trillion package Democrats approved in the House, Meadows said, and would be constructed to pass on its own or serve as a starting point for a larger deal.

Meadows said he met with President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Monday and that the president told them "to get as creative as we can within the confines of the law to put forth as much money as we can so we can keep this economy going."

Pelosi has repeatedly rejected the idea of passing a "skinny" relief bill, though, and Senate Democrats are expected to prevent the GOP bill from getting a vote absent some kind of deal in place with the speaker.

A major stumbling block. Meadows said aid for state and local governments is "probably the biggest stumbling block" for the next round of negotiations. Pelosi has requested $915 billion in aid to help avoid layoffs of public workers including teachers, firefighters and police officers. But Republicans have rejected anything like that level of assistance for what they portray as spendthrift, Democratic-led states and cities.

Even so, Mnuchin told lawmakers that the White House would back some kind of funding for states and local governments. "Nobody thinks the right outcome is zero," Mnuchin said.

70% of Americans Support Coronavirus Payments

Although lawmakers and the Trump administration have been unable to agree on the next coronavirus relief package, which could potentially include stimulus checks, most Americans think the federal government should issue another round of economic impact payments.

In a survey conducted between August 3 and August 11, 70% of respondents said they supported the payments, while just 17% said they did not. The proposal received majority support from those in both political parties and independents, as well as from those in all age groups (see the chart below).

Aske about the size of the checks, most said they should be $900 or larger.

In a separate set of questions, Gallup asked about unemployment insurance payments and their effect on people’s willingness to return to work. Respondents were shown different levels of supplemental benefits payments, ranging from $150 per week to $450 per week, and asked whether they would return to their previous jobs. Similar to numerous other studies that examined the effect of the $600 per week supplement paid by the federal government until the end of July, the Gallup researchers found that the level of unemployment support had little effect on their interest in returning to work.

"The survey results may not indicate how people might actually behave under the different circumstances, but to the extent they do predict behavior, they suggest relatively few workers would choose to stay home due to greater federal assistance rather than head back to work," Gallup said.

Number of the Day: $400 Billion for Health Care

The health care sector has received more than $400 billion in aid from the federal government since the coronavirus crisis began, according to data gathered by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

"The rush to shore up the finances of the health industry during the pandemic points to an irony in U.S. health care," says James C. Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute, who wrote about the situation Tuesday. "The nation’s provider network is already the most expensive in the world, and yet it does not do all that we wish it would for patients or society. ... A better approach would redirect what can be saved from a more efficient system into improved public health measures, including a more equitable distribution of services across society. The pandemic has demonstrated once again that this agenda is as urgent as ever."

Investigators Flag Billions in Questionable Small Business Loans

The Paycheck Protection Program lent more than $1 billion to small businesses that violated the rules of the program, a House investigative committee said Tuesday.

In a preliminary report, investigators said the PPPP "helped millions of small businesses and non-profit organizations stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis, but a lack of oversight and accountability from the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) may have led to billions of dollars being diverted to fraud, waste, and abuse, rather than reaching small businesses truly in need."

Problematic issues identified by the investigators include:

  • More than 10,000 loans worth a total of over $1 billion that went to companies that received multiple loans from the PPP, in violation of the rules.
  • More than 600 loans worth nearly $100 million made to small businesses that have been debarred or suspended from doing business with the government.
  • More than 350 loans worth nearly $200 million made to contractors that have had problems with performance or integrity.
  • More than 11,000 loans worth nearly $3 billion made to companies whose information doesn’t match other federal databases.
  • Hundreds of loans with missing information.

Republicans on the committee released their own report on the PPP Tuesday, which praises President Trump’s "swift action" and declares the program a "resounding success."

Send your tips and feedback to Follow us on Twitter: @yuvalrosenberg, @mdrainey and @TheFiscalTimes. And please tell your friends they can sign up here for their own copy of this newsletter.

Views and Analysis