WASHINGTON ― The $1 trillion emergency fiscal stimulus bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled on Thursday won’t do enough to address people’s suffering amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, several Republican lawmakers warned.
In addition to proposing hundreds of billions in loans for small businesses, many of which have been forced to close as COVID-19 illnesses mount, McConnell’s legislation would provide individuals making up to $75,000 in gross adjusted income a one-time check of $1,200 (couples earning less than $150,000 would get $2,400). The payments would increase $500 for each child.
But the “recovery rebates,” as the bill calls them, would provide much less ― $600 ― for many low-income Americans who pay little or no taxes. Moreover, they would be reduced for taxpayers earning above $75,000 to a maximum of $99,000 in gross adjusted income, with those above that figure ineligible for the government checks.
Several Republicans took issue with the proposal’s means-testing that would exclude some Americans from the benefits, urging the Senate to expand the payments.
“Americans urgently need cash to meet immediate needs, that’s been my goal from the start,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted on Thursday. “The current bill has promise but it shouldn’t give lower earners smaller checks —that’s directly contrary to my proposal. We need to fix this to ensure lower earners get equal payments.”
Romney was one of the first GOP lawmakers to propose sending a $1,000 check to every American adult to help deal with the increasingly painful economic fallout of the coronavirus.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) agreed McConnell’s bill “needs to be fixed.”
“Relief to families in this emergency shouldn’t be regressive. Lower-income families shouldn’t be penalized,” Hawley added.
Kyle Pomerleau, an economist and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, estimated that over 60 million low-income Americans wouldn’t receive the full rebate amount:
What the new legislation ultimately will look like hinges on high-stakes negotiations due to begin Friday between McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have a hardly stellar record on cooperation. Democrats have leverage over the final shape of the bill because it will require 60 votes for passage and Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Democrats have their own wish list for the fiscal package, calling for at least $750 billion to boost hospital capacity, unemployment insurance, small business assistance, child care, remote learning and food delivery. In addition, they want forbearance of all federal loans and cancellation of some student loan debt.
“We are beginning to review Senator McConnell’s proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,” Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Thursday.
Economic forecasts that grow direr by the day add pressure for quick action. Unemployment claims are poised to surge to a record 2.25 million this week ― up from 281,000 last week, according to an analysis from Goldman Sachs.