“I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” Mitch McConnell says.
The Senate is expected to pass a multi-billion dollar emergency aid package on Wednesday to confront the economic impacts of the coronavirus, as the Treasury Department calls for $250 billion in direct payments to Americans starting April 6.
The Senate’s approval of the House-passed coronavirus bill paves the way for negotiations on a third, even larger stimulus package to address the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his support Wednesday for the House package and vowed to address any “imperfections” in the Senate’s subsequent bill — which McConnell promised to craft at “warp speed.”
“It is a well-intentioned bipartisan product assembled by House Democrats and President Trump’s team that tries to stand up and expand some new relief measures for American workers,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said of the House bill, which lawmakers passed early Saturday and later approved technical corrections on Monday.
Despite “real shortcomings” in the legislation, McConnell said, “in this case I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”
Meanwhile, the White House sent a proposal to the Senate Wednesday morning with a list of options discussed at a lunch the previous day, according to a senior administration official.
According to the Treasury Department proposal, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, the so-called “stage three” proposal would include $50 billion to aid the hard-hit airline industry, $150 billion for other distressed sectors of the economy, provide two rounds of direct payments of $250 billion each on April 6 and May 18, and allow for the creation of a small business interruption loan program.
The document notably does not mention a payroll tax, which President Donald Trump has previously suggested he wanted.
Several GOP senators have already expressed reservations about the House bill, which has a price tag of around $100 billion. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a fiscal hawk, is seeking a vote on an amendment that includes provisions to pay for the package. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will also get a vote on his amendment to remove the paid leave mandate from the House bill.
The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the House bill this afternoon.
But as the coronavirus spreads across the country and the stock market continues to plunge, there is widespread recognition that the Senate needs to act swiftly and assist individuals as well as small businesses. The House bill is expected to clear the Senate on Wednesday afternoon with bipartisan majorities in both parties.
In a sign of the personal precautions members are taking against the coronavirus, McConnell urged his colleagues to avoid congregating on the Senate floor and to leave the chamber as soon as they cast their vote.
While no lawmaker has contracted the virus, several senators have self-quarantined after possible exposure, and at least one Senate staffer has tested positive for coronavirus.
And senators are continuing to urge President Donald Trump to take drastic actions usually only seen during wartime. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the president to invoke the Defense Production Act, which could significantly increase the production of critical equipment including hospital beds and other medical supplies.