House coronavirus package nears resolution after hitting snag *Mitch McConnell

A multibillion-dollar House coronavirus package that was hung up in negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday is now close to finalization, with both sides hoping to pass a revised version and clearing it for Senate action.

The Senate is expected to take up the House package this week after canceling its recess. But there is still uncertainty over timing and logistics — as well as some GOP opposition to the measure — despite mounting public pressure for government action and a severely disrupted U.S. economy.
Pelosi and Mnuchin were still working on the details of the revised bill into Monday afternoon. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was also involved in the discussions, sources said.

House aides in both parties said there had been "some changes" in the coronavirus bill regarding the Medicaid reimbursement and small business tax credit sections, although those issues have been resolved.
One other concern was GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. Gohmert, a conservative Republican, had threatened to block a unanimous consent agreement by objecting, as is his right.
That would mean, however, that the full House would have to be called back into session to vote. House leaders reached out to Gohmert to walk him through the "tweaks" in the bill. Gohmert was one of 40 Republicans who voted against the original bill on Friday.
It’s also unclear how swiftly the Senate will act, once the House finishes up. Mnuchin is expected to attend the Senate Republican lunch Tuesday — suggesting he may need to sell the deal to some GOP members.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch MchConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated Monday that "senators on both sides have spent the last several days carefully studying the House proposal" and "are eager to act quickly to support American workers, families and small businesses."
He added that the House bill is only the start. Over the weekend, McConnell spoke with the chairs of several committees to discuss additional steps to provide further financial assistance, assist small businesses and better support the health care system.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) asked members to submit ideas for an additional stimulus package by noon Monday, according to a Senate aide.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats will unveil a "comprehensive proposal" as early as Tuesday for the third coronavirus package that will provide "an immediate infusion of at least $750 billion" to respond to the crisis, including more money for hospitals, expanded unemployment insurance, more funds for small business, help with child care, and food assistance for seniors, among other issues.

Yet some Republicans are already expressing doubt that the Senate will approve the more modest House package without changes, much less a far costlier future package. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) predicted Monday on "Fox & Friends" that the House coronavirus bill as written will not pass the Senate, raising questions about its paid sick leave provisions.
"It doesn't go far enough and it doesn't go fast enough," Cotton said. "Most of the measures in this bill are something that the senators will support, I believe. ... But we worry that the bill setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit that won't move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off."


Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton.
Aaron MacLean, Cotton's legislative director, sent an email to his fellow legislative directors Monday, saying the Arkansas Republican "feels strongly that the Senate should not accept the Pelosi-Mnuchin plan as a given for 'Phase II.'” He is urging the Senate to "adopt its own plan for economic assistance" with tax rebates, changes to the qualifications for unemployment insurance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and a more expansive program for low-interest loans to businesses. He has made his view clear to the White House.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement that he hopes the Senate “will approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm — or, if it won't, pass nothing at all.”
The package comes as the coronavirus has made its way to Capitol Hill, with at least two D.C. staffers — one working for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and for Rep. David Schweikert's (R-Ariz.) — testing positive. And a Delaware-based staffer for Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also positive.
While the Senate waits on the House to work through its technical corrections, it will spend Monday focused on moving forward with legislation to renew and reform provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Those provisions expired over the weekend and McConnell is pushing the Senate to move quickly. The Senate as of now must first deal with renewing the FISA provisions before tackling the coronavirus package unless lawmakers take up the emergency bill by voice vote.
But Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) urged the Senate Sunday to prioritize the coronavirus package over FISA.
“FISA needs to be carefully reviewed. That takes time. That can wait," the Missouri Republican tweeted. "The emergency response to [coronavirus] should be the first order of business in the Senate tomorrow. There is no reason for this to take days & days."

The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association sent a letter Monday to McConnell and Pelosi, asking Congress to "provide additional supplemental emergency funding of at least $1 billion," as the health care system responds to the outbreak.
The confusion about when the Senate will act on the legislative package comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States jumped to more than 3,500 over the weekend. And on Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended Americans cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks.
House coronavirus package nears resolution after hitting snag *Mitch McConnell    House coronavirus package nears resolution after hitting snag *Mitch McConnell Reviewed by Anson Moore on March 16, 2020 Rating: 5

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