Facing a severe crisis, Trump is latching onto approaches Democrats have popularized and many Republicans have lambasted.
A president who shaped his first three years in office trying to sell Americans on obscure corporate tax provisions, minute details of tariffs and the rollback of mind-numbing regulations has a new approach: Keep it simple.
Facing the most sudden economic crisis to hit any modern American leader, President Donald Trump is now pushing to send Americans four-figure checks, establish broad corporate bailout programs and lend billions of dollars to small businesses so they can keep paying their bills.
The crisis approach jettisons long-held Republican philosophies about using the tax code — and the tax code alone — to reward businesses and individuals for certain types of economic behavior.
It’s a sharp reversal for a GOP that just weeks ago was railing against socialism. The new raft of proposals adopts philosophies popularized by a field of Democratic presidential candidates, like showering the public with government money and imposing strict conditions on corporate welfare.
“Both the White House and the Democrats tend to believe that helping workers affected by the shutdown with direct cash payments is the best and is the right strategy,” said Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. “Now, not every Republican likes that idea. Some do.”
Top officials hope these moves will help rehabilitate Trump as he comes under assault for his faltering approach to the novel coronavirus over the past two months — with troubles continuing to this date. The U.S. still does not have enough testing kits to know the full range of Americans potentially infected by the coronavirus. The pandemic has spread to all 50 states, and the lack of confidence in the administration’s efforts, combined with the shutdown of businesses, schools and restaurants, has triggered steep declines in the stock market — which Trump has always viewed as a key form of polling for his presidency.
The administration’s goal this week includes pushing through Congress another economic stimulus package that is likely to top $1.3 trillion, the centerpiece of which will be checks sent directly to thousands of Americans.
In recent days, President Donald Trump has latched onto the idea of the checks as a way to quickly give Americans money to cover housing payments, food and expenses as much of America’s social and business life shuts down as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S.
Behind the scenes, the Treasury Department is working on the mechanics of giving Americans direct checks, with the amount depending on one’s income and family size. The administration has considered sending anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per check and has proposed Congress spend a total of $500 billion on the measure, with the IRS issuing the first of two rounds of payments starting April 6, according to the Treasury proposal obtained by YAHOO.
“We are looking at different numbers. We are looking at timing that would be different,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “Splitting the time, splitting the payments. We are looking at a lot of different things. It hasn’t been determined yet, but it will shortly be determined. But people want to go big. Everybody seems to want to go big.”
The direct payments have received a much better reception on Capitol Hill than the president’s earlier proposal to cut or suspend the payroll tax, a move that would have helped both employees and employers.
One senior administration official said top economic aides presented the president with a list of possible options this week to help Americans financially, and he liked the check idea because it’s an easily understood concept and the money goes out quickly, a second senior administration official said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also outlined the check proposal earlier this week and then spoke with Trump about it on Wednesday, a person familiar with the conversation said.
Other Republican lawmakers seem equally amenable to it. “It’s a novel idea, and if it will help a lot of people help the economy because we’re in challenging times right now,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), one of the lawmakers involved in brainstorming ways to financially help out airlines as part of the broad rescue package. “It’s a lot of money, but the idea is to put cash in people’s hands [to] mitigate the economic effects.”
I want to see who is going to receive the money. Is it everyone? Is it someone who is laid off? Is it someone who is quarantined? I just need to see the final details,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “That’s more of a demand-side remedy. I think to solve this problem we’re going to need both demand and supply.“