McConnell plan: $1,200 payments; $1T rescue takes shape

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walk to attend a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed direct payments of $1,200 per person and $2,400 for couples as part of an initial Republican response Thursday to the coronavirus outbreak.

The GOP leader unveiled his plan as Congress raced to craft a $1 trillion rescue package to shore up households, health care and the U.S. economy amid the pandemic crisis and nationwide shutdown that’s hurtling the country toward a likely recession.

“We need to take bold and swift action as soon as possible,” said McConnell, announcing his plan on the Senate floor.

It’s an opening salvo in fast-track talks with Democrats as President Donald Trump urges Congress to “go big” to respond as Americans reel from the crisis.

Under the GOP leader’s plan, the aid would be phased out at income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple. Additionally, there would be $500 payments for each child.

McConnell’s proposal aligns with the Trump administration’s push to swiftly send a first round of checks to American households for immediate needs.

Additionally, the McConnell plan would provide $300 billion in loans to small businesses, including loans that would eventually be forgiven for employers who use them to meet payroll expenses.

Keeping paychecks flowing for idled workers as jobless claims skyrocket is a top priority for both Republican and Democratic plans emerging from Congress. But how best to send direct payments to Americans — as one-time stipends, ongoing payroll support or unemployment checks — is a crucial debate.

Democrats have their own proposals for ushering aid to Americans, and even McConnell’s GOP senators panned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s idea of direct checks of $3,000 for a family of four — preferring instead to use the federal dollars to keep workers who are asked to stay home on the business payrolls.

“What I want is income, not one check,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), summing up the views of some exiting a long, private meeting of GOP senators on Capitol Hill.

Trump administration officials, including Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow, are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Friday to launch bipartisan negotiations with Senate Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on a conference call with more than 220 House Democrats, urged them to “think big,” according to people on the call granted anonymity to discuss it.

Pelosi reminded them after her recent talk with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that interest rates are low. The outlay should be considered an investment, Pelosi told them.

Democrats compiling their own priorities in the House and Senate suggest other ways to keep paychecks flowing in what Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called “employment insurance” — which he characterized as “unemployment insurance on steroids.”

Schumer said utilizing the existing unemployment insurance system run by the states would be a “quick and easy” way to distribute money to the newly jobless.

“People desperately need it,” Schumer said.

The swift-moving effort in an all-but-shuttered Capitol came as the first two lawmakers tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, others are self-isolating and the usually tradition-bound Congress faced calls to ease rules and allow remote voting.

To shore up industry, McConnell’s plan would provide $208 billion in loans and loan guarantees to distressed sectors of the economy, including $50 billion for commercial airlines and $8 billion for air cargo carriers, and $150 billion for other eligible businesses, but those loans would have to be paid back.

Unlike the airline bailout after the 9/11 attacks, there would not be direct cash grants to airlines, according to the bill.

The measure would also allow people to make penalty-free withdrawals of up to $100,000 from their tax-deferred 401(k) retirement funds. It would also loosen tax rules on charitable giving.

The McConnell proposal would allow businesses to defer payment of the 6.2% employer payroll tax. Businesses would also receive more generous rules for business deductions of losses and interest costs.

At the same time, caring for the expected surge of sick Americans is a priority.

The McConnell proposal contains a raft of health care provisions — including permanent liability protection for the manufacturers of respirators and other desperately needed medical gear — but Democrats want more direct support to healthcare providers.

Democrats want to ramp up production of medical supplies and rapidly erect temporary field hospitals under new authorities Trump has invoked in the Defense Production Act.

“America needs a Marshall Plan for our health care system,” said Schumer, citing the post-World War II program in which the U.S. financed rebuilding in Europe.

At the consumer level, McConnell’s bill would put into federal law the commitment from insurers that coronavirus tests will be cost-free to policy holders. Additionally, the bill requires coverage of coronavirus vaccines as a preventive service, at no cost to patients.

For the health care industry, the bill would establish a new Medicare payment for treating COVID-19 patients. It would suspend through the end of this year a 2% Medicare payment.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat overseeing Medicare and Medicaid, said the GOP approach “falls far short.”

Groups representing hospitals, doctors and nurses are asking Congress for $100 billion.

Meanwhile, industries of all kinds are lining up for help to avoid cratering the economy and devastating the home lives of their employees.

The total price tag is sure to grow beyond $1 trillion, lawmakers said.

Trump has already signed into law a $100 billion-plus bill to boost testing for the coronavirus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers hit by it. Earlier, Congress passed and Trump signed an initial $8.3 billion effort.

As Congress rushes to compile the sweeping economic rescue package, the biggest undertaking since the 2008 recession and financial crisis, in a matter of days, it also is considering its own way of doing business.

Pelosi tasked a top committee chairman to study potential changes in House procedures as some lawmakers press for remote voting.

The Senate plans to remain in session this weekend. The House, which is on recess, won’t be recalled until it’s time to vote.

In the House, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, released statements saying they had tested positive for COVID-19 — the first two known cases in Congress. Several other lawmakers have cycled in and out of self-isolation after exposure to individuals who had later tested positive for the virus.

On Thursday, McAdams told NBC’s “Today” show the House should consider changing its rules to allow remote voting.

Economists say the country is probably already in recession and the massive rescue package now being drafted would probably not be enough to stop millions of job losses.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Padmananda Rama in Washington contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(52) comments

francesca_easa

Folks who are currently not working, can collect unemployment from their state and receive additional income from the Feds with a check for $1,200. Were you one of the efficient ones who already filed their taxes and are getting a refund? Great! It might take a few weeks longer to get your refund, but you'll have extra cash then too. Keep in mind that banks, students loans and a few other financial institutions are allowing you to defer payments for a period of time for no extra charge. And there are so many Go Fund me pages, MSN has raised a ridiculous amount of money, other third party organizers have also started good deeds. There is already enough money being collected.

jth7100

Now you're getting it Gabe. Greed always wins. It has no party affiliations.

FCPS-Principal

I encourage every person to donate their maga check to Joe Biden's campaign. It's tax deductible, so you don't have to give any of it back. And, having McConnell finance the Dotard's defeat is, well, priceless poetry.

collinsm65

I’m in.

Lev928

Anybody else want FCPS-Principal to jump out of a window without a parachute? Oxygen thieves make this thing worse.

FCPS-Principal

Bankers are totally unethical today. When this happened in 1929, a number of them did the honorable thing and jumped out of their 20th floor windows. Without a parachute. Oh how I wish today's bankers would follow in their grandparent's footsteps. As any Republican will tell you, things were better back then.

jth7100

Burr and the others basically defined how you violate the Stock Act. "The STOCK Act is an original bill to prohibit members of Congress and employees of Congress from using private information derived from their official positions for personal benefit, and for other purposes." Three senators voted against it 96-3 in 2012. Guess the name of one of those votes? They benefitted financially from information not available to the public and kept their mouths shut when they were made aware of the actual Covid-19 threat severity. Kelly Loeffler same thing.

gabrielshorn2013

It also turns out that Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Imhofe (R-OK) both unloaded stock in the same time period.

Obadiah Plainsmen

Feinstein is ok good financial decision, Imhofe totally guilty of insider trading.

collinsm65

Both are jailbait. They need to just be cuffed and stuffed.

hayduke2

Then they should be looked at as well...

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DickD

For you, that is good, OP.

DickD

Republicans are trying to out Democrat the Democrats! They see their re- election slipping away and do whatever it takes to keep them in office.

Why $75,000 and how will that be determined? From your tax filings? This year or last years. Why just 401k tax free? Why not all forms of capital, such as Treasury bonds, municipal bonds, etc. What difference does it make where the money comes from?

When we - the U.S., is done with this how are we going to pay it back?

FCPS-Principal

It's socialism for business, not workers. No one can do much with $900 ($1200 after taxes) except pay a little rent. Businesses however can pay millions and millions to their top dogs with the billions and billions in the bill.

Russian

Goldman Sachs forecasting 9% unemployment on Election Day.

DickD

OMG, Trump has been telling us how lucky we are with the stock market and full employment.

FCPS-Principal

Will that be the real number or the alternative number?

Moon otter

If you have lost your job you file for unemployment. So for companies say I worked for Company A their unemployment insurance doesn't go up, stays the same. Feds wave it. To figure out the unemployment easily done. I worked last year at this company and I made X then divide that amount by 12 months and that is the amount I would get under unemployment in payments. It is not based on any percentage but a full 100%. Folks who are still working don't receive anything, nothing. Pretty simple.

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Alice Jones

None of that beats bat sh t crazy clown Hannity. Nine days ago he spewed -19 was a hoax. Last night he denied ever saying it. Either he is so dumb he forgot about the internet or he thinks the droolers will believe him.

Dwasserba

'“What I want is income, not one check,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham..." omg I share a sentiment with Lindsey Graham. Quick, someone take my temperature

DickD

Yup, Deb, you caught the Republican flu. [scared]

Russian

Individuals eligible for the full $1200 must earn under 75k. This means teachers, first responders and those protecting the national infrastructure will get nothing.

Obadiah Plainsmen

And they shouldn't! What should happen is raise your taxes and pay them what they are worth.

newspostreader

Why shouldn't they get something? This should be an all or nothing thing. If they have no problem adding to the debt, then spread it equally because we're ALL going to have to pay it back.

Obadiah Plainsmen

Then pay them “something” all the time .They risk theirs lives for you and teach your children in time of peace and tranquillity. But the threat is always there. 412 first responders lost their lives on 9/11. Think about it. They are worth a whole lot more than $1,200.

collinsm65

OFFS Oby obey. You swallowed hard on what the rethugs spew. You forget they already gave billions to businesses in Donnie Damage’s tax giveaway. Now he’s doing it again disguising it with $1200 distractions to be all feel-good like while killing everyone.

Moon otter

Teachers are contracted and most teachers have their salary spread out for 12 months not just the 10 months they are teaching.

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DickD

And that has passed Congress, user?

StrengthofLiberty

One time payments? Three hours ago the Independent out of the UK published a report that "Over 170 MP's and peers have urged government to introduce a 'universal basic income' to "give everyone financial support they need to provide for themselves and their families" during the coronavirus pandemic." The plan is to pay every adult a flat, unconditional sum of money each week for the duration of the crisis. Describing this plan as: "Practical. Not ideological." Public-private partnership at its most fair and equitable state.

Call it what you will - but to my way of thinking our public treasuries are akin to our individual investment into an investment fund. Now - the investors need their money out of the public treasury, or as we have been told: The Public-Private Partnership Fund.

Comment deleted.
DickD

But ............ it is the Republicans that are proposing it! They are beating Bernie to the punch!

Comment deleted.
hayduke2

Your astute, well researched and enlightening comments add so much to the conversation User.

newspostreader

Sure, lets add another Trillion to the debt and further unstablize the U.S. dollar.

gabrielshorn2013

So, what would you propose npr?

olefool

Politicians, all of them, are just bribing the American people to ignore their, the politicians and preachers incompetence and criminality. Sadly, we will take the money and give them a pass believing their bloviation that they are concerned about us. Patoooey... .

FCPS-Principal

With the Dotard having issued false and misleading statements downplaying the virus so as to buy time for Republicans behind the scenes to sell off stocks, we now have the Maga Virus. Republicans did this in 1929 too. Maga!

steelersfan2005

If you are against Socialism, you best not accept the check. Trump knew about this pandemic coming and wanted to sell his stocks before he finally took it serious.

DickD

I.just went back and read the actual article, which states Republican N.C. Senator Burr told his donors the same day Trump was making a speech about the Corona virus. There's a secret recording - at least it was secret until now.

DickD

At the meeting Burr told his wealthy donors schools would have to be closed.

DickD

On February 25th Trump made a speech down playing Corona virus. On February 26th N.. Republican Senator Burr held a private meeting with wealthy campaign donors telling them that the virus was very fast spreading, telling them it would be comparable to the 1918 flu epidemic. Burr dumped up to $1.7 million in stocks to avoid losses, based on insider information avoiding massive losses.

It's all in Political. Burr is being asked to resign and there are questions whether Trump knew this and deliberately mislead the public.

FCPS-Principal

It's not political. It's criminal.

gabrielshorn2013

Insider information dick? Anyone with a modicum of knowledge understood that the transportation, energy, and hospitality sectors were going to take a huge hit (and they did). Is it wrong to act on that knowledge? No! You'd be stupid not to. I did, and imagine many others did too. Nothing nefarious whatsoever with that.

hayduke2

Come on Gabe! Look up what constitutes insider trading.

gabrielshorn2013

I know very well what it is hay, and I am required to be aware of anything that could be construed as insider trading in my business dealings. Since I kept up with the CDC and WHO reports on the COVID-19 pandemic progress, and moved out of the transportation (nobody will fly or take mass transit), energy (greatly reduced demand for fuel by the transportation sector), and hospitality (no need to stay in hotels, no restaurants or bars open, etc.) at around the same time, would my timing be suspect? I sure hope not. Hey, if this guy is dirty like some here say he is, then hang 'em high. The one thing that he absolutely got wrong was downplaying the situation while saving his own @$$. That violation of the public trust, if true, cannot be forgiven. It turns out that he voted against the STOCK Act of 2012, which was supposed to stop Legislators from profiting on insider information. It also turns out that Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Imhofe (R-OK) both unloaded stock in the same time period.

hayduke2

As I posted elsewhere, if you had no private briefing and then unloaded stocks, no issue. It appears the four of them may have used the knowledge to unload stocks based on it.

DickD

And telling lies to the public while you tell your private campaign donors the opposite? Get real, Gabe!

Comment deleted.
DickD

Maybe because she didn't have a private conversation with donors telling them how bad it was going to be while telling the public the opposite. Trump and the rest of the Republicans knew how bad it was going to be and went beyond the "pale" telling lies to the public.

Comment deleted.
hayduke2

Please give me the reference User

FCPS-Principal

There's a lot of socialism in this Republican plan for saving capitalism. I've read of $1000 maga checks per adult, $2000 maga checks per adult, now $1200 maga checks per person that fades to $0 at an income of $75,000, if you have any income after your employer closes the doors. Apparently maga socialism has its limits. Socialist Sanders wants $2000 per household. Mormons and devout Catholics won't like that. And of course there's billions and billions and billions for businesses to borrow and not bother to pay back. It's all rather pointless really. The Bushies can tell you that. No one is going to do much with $1000, $1200 or even $2000 other than pay a month's rent and maybe buy a little toilet paper on the black market. Businesses will spend more buying vacation homes for their top dogs. If you want to really stimulate the economy, pardon all the student debt with these trillions in handouts and let the 50,000,000 young debt-ridden Millennials stimulate it for you. They will spend far far far more than the measly $2000 per household on autos, homes, furniture, travel, appliances, clothing and dining out. Restaurants will never keep up with the orders for avocado toast. Debt relief will free them up to have children and all the spending that goes along with that will fuel more growth. All that you can bank on.

Comment deleted.
CheetoBenito

So what are you buying? iPhone or new TV?

Comment deleted.
FCPS-Principal

No cars, just gadgets.

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