There were expectations that the top Republicans in Congress will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday on the next COVID-19 aid package. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, was ready to roll out the $1 trillion package in a matter of days. However, divisions between the White House and the Senate GOP majority posed fresh challenges. Because the earlier federal emergency relief was expiring and since many people had hoped Coronavirus would have improved, Congress was set to return to session this week. On Sunday, Trump maintained that the virus would “disappear.”
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and McConnell were prepared to meet with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to fine-tune” the legislation. The package was expected to reduce unemployment benefits alongside a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans, including $75 billion to help schools reopen, and a sweeping five-year liability shield against coronavirus lawsuits. However, one Republican familiar with the discussions stated that as the White House weighed in, the administration was panning some $25 billion in proposed new funds for testing and tracing. The Washington Post was the first to report the administration’s objections. Another Republican indicated that Trump was reviving his push for a payroll tax break.
There is a disconnect that threatened to upend an already difficult legislative process, as the new push from the White House put the administration at odds with GOP allies in Congress. After Trump suggested last month at a rally in Oklahoma that he wanted to slow virus testing, he raised alarms on Capitol Hill, and several of his allies wanted new money to help test and track the virus to contain its spread. There is an investigation by Senate Democrats on the reason why the Trump administration had not yet spent some of $25 billion that was set aside for testing in an earlier aid bill. The Republicans objected to the payroll tax break, siting it as an inadequate response to millions of out-of-work Americans.
In considering what will be a fifth COVID-19 aid package, Lawmakers were returning to a partially closed Capitol still off-limits to tourists. Republicans thought the virus would ease and economy rebound, so more aid would not be needed after passing the $2.2 trillion relief bill in March. The pandemic’s devastating cycle was happening all over again. However, COVID-19 cases are hitting alarming new highs, and the death toll is rising, Congress has little choice but to engineer another costly rescue. A sombre McConnell, R-Ky indicated that it was not going to disappear magically. McConnell acknowledged it would not have full support as he prepared to roll out his $1 trillion-plus proposal. The political stakes were high for all sides before the November election.