Senate Republicans announced last night that they have “reached a fundamental agreement” with the White House on the best path to move forward for the next stimulus bill.
A small group of GOP Senators met with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for a third time this week. The GOP and the White House are “completely on the same page,” as a result. They also are “in good shape” to move the relief bill forward.
This positive development stands in contrast to reports that discussions within the GOP had broken down. Some say it’s broken to the point that Sen. Ted Cruz asked, “What the hell are we doing?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently indicated that he doesn’t expect the new bill to include a payroll tax cut, and it remains to be seen if that will be removed to gain bipartisan support.
“There are some differences of opinion on the question of the payroll tax cut and whether that’s the best way to go. And so we’re still in discussion with the administration on that,” McConnell added.
The GOP is expected to release their plan today, but it’s now “a handful of bills now instead of just one bill,” according to Roy Blunt, the chair of the Rules Committee.
He added, “So we’ll have one appropriations bill, we’ll have several authorization bills that explain in more detail how that appropriated money will be spent, and obviously there will be a bill that will talk about any money that is distributed in direct payments or any other way.”
Here’s what is expected to be included in the proposals:
The bill will include $16 billion in new funding for testing, to add to $9 billion in previously appropriated funds. The combination of funds is a compromise between the White House and Senate Republicans. The former desires a lower funding amount and the latter wants $25 billion. The funding will be focused on testing in schools, daycare centers, nursing homes, and senior centers.
Republican have agreed to $70 billion in funding for K-12 education for all schools on a per capita basis. Half of the money will go to covering costs for schools that have announced plans to reopen.
$30 billion in funding would go to colleges and universities whether or not they reopen this fall.
Republicans are willing to spend $105 billion so that schools can “safely reopen,” McConnell said earlier this week. Democrats originally asked for $100 billion. However, they are now asking for more than $400 billion in school funding.
“We’ve agreed on the school front on ways to get people back to school and encourage them to go back to … school, as much as possible,” Blunt said.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin told reporters that there is an agreement in place regarding stimulus checks. He says it is to provide Americans with another round of direct payments. However, the final amount hasn’t been determined. He added, “I’m not going to get into specifics right now, but there is an agreement.”
Unemployment insurance and payroll tax cut
There appears to be no short-term extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits in the next bill. This comes despite reports earlier this week that some Republicans were open to the idea.
“We’re really looking at trying to make sure that we have a comprehensive bill that deals with the issues,” chief-of-staff Meadows told NBC News in an interview. “Any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension.”
There has also been no agreement on a payroll tax cut, a top priority for President Trump.
“We really are not in a position to talk any specifics,” Meadows said, adding “We’re going let Leader McConnell talk about that after he actually has a more thorough conversation with his senators.”