Senate Republicans Introduce $1 Trillion-Plus Economic Stimulus Plan For Congressional Debate

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to keep the Senate in session until a stimulus bill is passed.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks from his office to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol.
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Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to keep the Senate in session until a stimulus bill is passed.

On Thursday, March 19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a “sweeping, $1 trillion emergency economic aid proposal in response to coronavirus pandemic,” according to a report from CNN.

The proposal is considered to be a “Phase 3” package, which is intended to provide further economic stimulus for American citizens and businesses. This bill follows the House of Representatives-led emergency aid package that provides paid sick leave provisions — among other immediate protections — that was passed and signed into law on Wednesday.

The Senate Republicans’ new proposal will assist small businesses by providing them federally guaranteed loans to make payroll, give relief to the industries hurt hardest by the quarantine, and make direct cash payments to individual Americans. It is this last provision, however, that has become a sticking point for some Republican senators.

Led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a few senators have voiced their opposition for direct payments to American citizens. According to Politico, he wants to “beef up the unemployment system” instead of just giving Americans a one-time cash payment.

He’s not alone in his hesitation for that particular provision of the stimulus package. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby stated he believed the cash payments should be a supplement to unemployment and shouldn’t be given to all Americans whose earnings are below a certain threshold — which is what would happen now, should the bill pass unaltered.

Politico reports that although some senators have reservations, White House officials are confident they will “fall in line” if President Donald Trump pushes for the direct payments.

Even if all Republican senators do vote for the bill, however, it would still need the backing of seven Democrats, who have put out their own version of a stimulus bill. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said their bill would be a “workers first” proposal. He also called for support for the health care industry, creating a sort of “Marshall Plan” to assist the system that will most certainly become overwhelmed as the virus continues to spread.

Schumer has said that he has maintained close contact with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who is acting as the White House liaison for these discussions — as well as House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The House, for their part, is also working on a “Phase 3” stimulus bill.

The Senate Democrats’ bill focuses on expanded paid sick leave and unemployment insurance and only totals $750 billion. The House Democrats’ proposal focuses on “extensive financial protections — including direct monthly payments of as much as $2,0o0 for adults; grants and debt relief for small businesses; and measures to halt evictions and foreclosures,” as reported by Politico.

The House Democrats would also enforce strict rules for businesses that receive any aid from Congress, including payroll guarantees and the prevention of stock buybacks. Additionally — apart from the “Phase 3” package — they are arguing to provide between $120 billion and $150 billion in support for federal agencies.

For his part, McConnell was quick to assure that any package passed wouldn’t be a “bailout,” as “nobody…brought this on themselves.”

“We’re all going to have to vote for something that in another environment we wouldn’t support,” Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican, told Politico.

The negotiations for “Phase 3” began as a sense of urgency started to be felt in both chambers, as members of Congress started testing positive for the disease.