A week ago, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on behalf of the Trump administration that talks of direct payments to Americans were dead as part of another round of economic stimulus.
But now, it appears, there is some backtracking as Congress and the White House work to come to some agreement over the details of another round of stimulus.
According to the Associated Press, Mnuchin has reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing $600 direct payments to Americans as part of the stimulus package. The amount is half of what was given to most Americans during the spring in the wake of mass economic shutdowns tied to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden offered their support of a $900 billion stimulus plan hatched between a bipartisan group of moderate senators. Trump said last week he would sign the bill if it passes through Congress. However for Americans hoping to see a second stimulus check, this bill comes short on that aspect.
The bill would provide $300 in additional unemployment benefits for up to 18 weeks. The legislation also would replenish funds for the Paycheck Protection Program and for small businesses to help make payroll as a number of companies are being forced to close to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. The current proposal calls for $288 billion to go toward support for small businesses.
There would also be $160 billion earmarked for state and local governments, which have seen a drop in tax revenue due to the pandemic. There is in additional $45 billion allocated toward the transportation industry, most notably for airlines, which have seen an over 50% reduction in business since March.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that a compromise is within reach, he said Tuesday that he opposes funds for state and local governments. He proposed Tuesday dropping funds for state and local governments in exchange for dropping litigation protection against businesses. Democrats have opposed pandemic-related litigation protection for businesses.
“My view and I think it’s the view shared by literally everybody on both sides of the aisle, we can’t leave without doing a COVID bill,” McConnell said earlier in the day. “The country needs it. We have an agreement that we need to do this. You’ve been following the discussions back and forth about how to put the package together, it remains my view that we ought to pass what we can agree on and I think that’s a pretty broad area that includes PPP, vaccine delivery, additional assistance to healthcare providers and a variety of other things that are not controversial.
Following Pelosi’s conversation with Mnuchin, she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement expressing concern that Trump’s proposal would disrupt the progress made in reaching a compromise.
“While it is progress that Leader McConnell has signed off on a $916 billion offer that is based off of the bipartisan framework, the President’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway,” the two Democratic leaders said in a statement. “Members of the House and Senate have been engaged in good-faith negotiations and continue to make progress. The bipartisan talks are the best hope for a bipartisan solution.
“The President’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan Members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable.”
As Trump has pushed for direct payments while Schumer and Pelosi offer their skepticism of Trump's proposal, the idea of direct payments has earned more public support from Congressional Democrats than Republicans. It seems as of now winning over McConnell and Senate Republicans with another round of stimulus checks might be more of a challenge for the Trump administration than winning over House Democrats.