White House officials also want to include more assistance for small businesses and their employees in the legislation, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The talks have taken on more urgency as the economy has shown signs of careening into recession. The Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 3,000 points on Monday and showed signs of a slight rebound on Tuesday.
The $850 billion package would come in addition to another roughly $100 billion package that aims to provide paid sick leave for impacted workers, though the details of that legislation remain very fluid as it moves through Congress.
But there is emerging tension between the White House’s approach and the bills Democrats are trying to advance. White House officials are leaning hard into the idea of tax cuts and industry assistance, while Democrats have said their proposals are focused more on helping workers, health care providers, schools, and senior citizens.
Mnuchin would like to see the new package pass the Senate by the end of the week, he told senators Monday evening in a meeting at the Capitol.
“I think the assumption’s going to be that we’re going to do something, it should be big. Because we can’t assume that we’re just going to keep coming back,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Monday night leaving a meeting with Mnuchin and other administration officials.
Rubio said aid to airlines was likely to be included. “We still need to get people around the country. I have no doubt that’s going to be a major feature of the next step.”
It’s unclear how warmly the design of the White House’s proposal will be received. Senate Republicans are meeting with Mnuchin on Tuesday. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are gathering on a conference call to discuss their strategy. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) is expected to outline his $750 billion proposal and contrast it with the White House’s approach. Schumer’s offering would expand unemployment insurance, provide money for schools, public transportation, expand Medicaid funding, expand more investments in health care, provide loan assistance, and halt evictions and foreclosures, among other things.
“We need big, bold immediate federal action to deal with the crisis,” Schumer said Monday.
Democrats have complained that the White House’s push so far has relied on seeking tax cuts and industry bailouts.
Trump has for several weeks pushed Congress to cut or eliminate the payroll tax, which is paid by employees and employers and funds Social Security and Medicare benefits. Many Democrats have complained that such a tax cut would not necessarily directly benefit people who have lost jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.
A growing number of conservatives are also voicing concerns about the administration’s proposed payroll tax cut, with two lawmakers — Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — calling for the federal government to instead send checks to Americans across the country. The idea of direct cash payments has also gained traction in liberal circles, with former Obama administration economist Jason Furman lobbying congressional Democrats to adopt similar proposals.
Still, lawmakers have, in recent days, talked about the need for a huge economic package to stabilize the economy, and it’s likely that some ideas are being revisited.
The attempt to inject a massive amount of money into the economy is reminiscent of the bailouts and stimulus steps Congress took during the economic crisis more than a decade ago. This time around, with everyday life in America screeching to a halt, the intervention may need to be faster and even more extreme. In 2008, Congress passed a $700 billion package, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to try and rescue the financial system.
The package the White House is pursuing now would be bigger, not adjusted for inflation, but it would include things like tax cuts that the 2008 program lacked.
Still, the economic fallout from the current crisis only appears to be gaining momentum. Many schools have closed around the country, and the federal government told Americans on Monday to limit gatherings of more than 10 people. President Trump warned a recession could be on the horizon.
The massive package now under consideration would be the third step Congress has taken as it moves rapidly to address aspects of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Congress approved $8.3 billion in emergency spending for public health programs, and last week the House passed a package with paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, money for food stamps, free coronavirus testing and more. That legislation must still pass the Senate after the House approved modifications late Monday that were billed as “technical corrections” but actually scaled back the sick leave provisions.
– Paul Kane contributed to this report