WASHINGTON — As the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. worsens, Congress and the White House are already eyeing a third stimulus package to address the economic effects of the pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is preparing an aid package that is expected to total $850 billion, according to two administration officials. Mnuchin is expected to participate in a closed-door lunch with Republicans on Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Separately, the Office of Management and Budget is also preparing a much smaller supplemental request that could be at least $10 billion to submit to Congress.
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Congress needs to provide more “direct assistance” to workers and families and enact “further strong steps to secure our economic foundation” especially small businesses. He also said that Congress must help support medical professionals on the front lines.
McConnell said that the Senate won’t leave Washington until they pass additional aid packages.
“It’s my intention that the Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps, above and beyond what the House has passed to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm,” he said.
Senate Republicans met on Monday with Mnuchin, Acting OMB Director Russ Vought and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to discuss further legislative action.
“I think [Mnuchin’s] preference is we pass the House bill and move quickly to pass the third Coronavirus bill that deals with some of these issues about creating a mechanism to return money, to get liquidity into the hands of small businesses,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. on Monday after the meeting. “I think they’d like to go big.”
Mnuchin is expected to “bring them paper” Tuesday, Rubio said, on the cost and details of the third phase of the bill. “A mechanism to get money to small businesses. We’ll have to deal with the airlines. If we don’t have functional airlines – if they stop operating, it becomes a national security threat for the country.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have prepared their own package that would cost at least $750 billion. While the Senate is controlled by Republicans, any aid packages will ultimately have to be bipartisan because any bill requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass and it will have to pass the Democratic-controlled House.
Given those dynamics, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to present the plan to his Democratic caucus during a PowerPoint presentation during a tele-lunch on Tuesday.
He plans to “explain the contrast to the GOP’s expected proposals of industry bailouts and tax cuts,” a senior Democratic aide said.
Republicans want to take the lead on this next phase because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democrats set the agenda for the first two phases of coronavirus aid. But Schumer, knowing any bill in the Senate requires 60 votes to reach final passage, is attempting to assert his priorities.
Congress recently passed a $8.3 billion aid package that President Donald Trump signed on March 6.
The House passed the second aid package early Saturday after several days of negotiations between Pelosi and Mnuchin. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, held up the bill Monday in the House as the Democrats attempted to pass technical corrections bill. He finally relented Monday night and it was passed out of the House, sending it to the Senate for a vote that will likely be sometime this week.