As senators returned from recess this week, Republicans were supposed to unveil a unified congressional/White House proposal for another big stimulus bill, dubbed CARES II. Now as the week nears its end, intraparty dissension continues — though it appears the Senate GOP has finally killed President Trump’s pet payroll tax cut idea, according to the Washington Post:
Senate Republicans have cast aside one of President Trump’s key demands in their emerging coronavirus stimulus package, refusing to include a payroll tax cut in their opening offer to Democrats, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is aiming to announce Thursday.
The payroll tax cut idea had scant Republican and zero Democratic support. But because of its cost, Trump’s persistence in promoting it obstructed the development of a consensus GOP bill, given the party’s efforts to keep the overall price tag at or near a trillion dollars.
With that problem apparently out of the way, Republicans are now coalescing around another direct check to taxpayers, limited assistance to schools, and a significantly reduced supplemental unemployment benefit, in addition to its longstanding demand for liability protections against lawsuits for COVID-19 exposure by businesses and health-care facilities. There will also be a boost in new funding for the small business-oriented Paycheck Protection Act, and limited new assistance for COVID-19 testing and vaccine development. What the bill will exclude entirely is perhaps most significant: fiscal assistance for state and local governments (the House-passed Heroes Act includes nearly a trillion dollars for that purpose) and relief for renters facing evictions.
Less clear are the parameters of the second “stimulus check,” and exactly how far the CARES Act’s $600 per week UI bonus would be reduced. There are ill-defined issues remaining between Senate Republicans and the White House, as talks continue on the morning when Mitch McConnell was supposed to unveil the bill. And there is a revolt brewing against the entire bill among certain hard-core Senate conservatives, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Ron Johnson. At least one reporter for The Hill compared it to the right-wing resistance to the Troubled Assets Relief Program in 2008 that led to the rise of the Tea Party Movement:
Asked about the conservative backlash to the 2008 bailout legislation, Paul said the “whole Tea Party movement arose out of that because they were sick of Washington Republicans who weren’t conservative anymore.”
Paul says conservatives are feeling the same anger today over the exploding deficit, which was projected to reach $3.8 trillion for 2020 even before lawmakers started negotiating the newest coronavirus relief package: “There’s a lot of frustration.”
When the Senate convened today, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer taunted Republicans for their struggles to get a proposal together more than two months after House passage of the Heroes Act, calling their efforts “ununified, unserious and unsatisfactory.” Negotiations with Democrats over the vast space between the Heroes Act and the developing GOP bill have not really begun, with key provisions of the CARES Act expiring at the end of this month, and another recess looming in early August.