WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll begin to roll out details of the new COVID-19 relief package to senators as soon as next week and suggested it will include new funding for school reopenings, some unemployment benefits and money for health care providers.
Expected to hit USD1 trillion, the emerging Republican package shows shifting priorities as the pandemic crisis deepens nationwide. Once reluctant to approve more aid, Republicans and the White House now say more is needed.
In recent days, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been reaching out to GOP senators ahead of negotiations with Democrats, who already approved a USD3 trillion House bill.
McConnell, during a visit to a hospital in his home state of Kentucky, said on Tuesday the theme of the upcoming GOP bill will be children and schools, jobs and unemployment, and health care. Congress is returning on Monday for two weeks to consider fresh coronavirus relief as the Trump administration has been unable to halt the virus’ deepening spread across the country. Asked at an earlier event on Tuesday if he would be attending next month’s Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, a state with record-setting cases, McConnell said his “current intention” is to go, but that he would assess closer to the date.
While McConnell wanted to hit “pause” after the last big relief package in May, he now hopes to swiftly approve the new one in hopes of staunching the pandemic crisis and economic fallout.
Speaking at the White House, President Donald Trump said, “We have to get everything open.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that, without a comprehensive federal strategy for the country, the devastating virus and its economic toll will only persist.
“We can open our economy, we can open our schools, if we test, trace, treat, separate, mask, hygiene and the rest, but we have to make a national decision to do it,” Pelosi said on CNN.
Pelosi said she’s “very afraid of where we are now, because of the ignorance in the administration.” She warned that if Congress doesn’t make the investments needed, “we’re going to pay a worse price, worse hit, on the economy.”
Central to the GOP proposal is a five-year liability shield that McConnell wants to extend to businesses, hospitals, schools and others to prevent lawsuits from those claiming injuries during the pandemic and economic shutdown and reopening.