Congressional Democrats unveiled their proposals for a legislative stimulus package aimed at mitigating the economic damage stemming from the coronavirus.
Both House and Senate Democrats have rejected President Trump’s proposal to cut payroll taxes, arguing it does not provide help to those hit hardest by the pandemic. They said that tax relief is geared too much toward wealthier Americans who aren’t feeling the pain as acutely as restaurant, hotel and others in the retail sector.
“We need targeted assistance to those workers and families who are being directly affected by the coronoavirus,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said.
House Democratic leaders are expected to introduce a bill as soon as Wednesday, and it’s possible the chamber could vote on it on Thursday, according to congressional sources.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., began pushing over the weekend for paid sick leave, expanded unemployment assistance benefits for lost wages, nutrition assistance modeled on programs set up for natural disasters, and protections against price gouging.
Schumer emphasized in a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that their framework for a bill included these items and other proposals he said would help give both short- and long-term relief.
Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate on Tuesday after he and President Trump briefed Senate Republicans on their approach.
Afterward, the speaker told reporters “we’re ready with our legislation” but said that it was being reviewed for costs by the Congressional Budget Office.
Asked whether the administration had proposals Democrats could accept, Pelosi said, “We have our agenda first, and that’s what we want to see. If that is something that’s agreeable to them, then we’ll see what else we can do.”
Schumer sent a letter to the president along with more than 30 Senate Democrats appealing for quick action on Wednesday.
“While following social distancing guidelines may be important to mitigate the spread of the virus, it creates potentially grave economic challenges for American workers who are not easily able to telework or who do not have access to paid leave,” the senators wrote. “Further limitations on travel, access to more common general services, and cancellation of major events will potentially hurt a large number of Americans who work or depend upon hospitality, travel, tourism, and retail businesses.”
They also pressed for six months of loan forgiveness for federal student loans and mortgages, disaster grants for communities forced to shut down, direct assistance from the Small Business Administration for retail and other businesses failing due to drop off because of the outbreak.
A White House official did not immediately provide comment on whether. Trump is expected to meet with banking CEOs Wednesday afternoon.
“The virus doesn’t say are you a Republican or a Democrat,” Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said Wednesday, adding, “It’s affecting all Americans.”