Top Democrats say they're not yet ready to sign off on coronavirus stimulus package




 

Just prior to an 11 a.m. meeting between the top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters "from my standpoint, we are apart."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters ahead of the meeting that "we need a bill that puts workers first, not corporations" and declined to say whether he supports the current bill.

Leaving Sunday's meeting, Pelosi said she will be introducing her own legislative package "but we are still talking" with Republican leaders. At this point, however, she said there is no bipartisan deal.

The meeting comes hours before a critical 3 p.m. procedural vote on the Phase III bill, of which the text has not yet been released. Congressional leaders are hopeful of hammering out the details Sunday.

Just prior to the meeting, which was held in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Democrats released what they are still opposed to in the stimulus package. According to a person familiar with the negotiations, Democrats say the language allows for corporations to keep bailout money while still firing workers, that the bailout money has virtually no restraints, and that there are very weak stock buyback restrictions. A senior Democratic aide told NBC News that Democrats are concerned that the bill lacks specific provisions aimed at protecting people from evictions, foreclosure or forbearance and only allowing for three months of unemployment insurance.

McConnell told reporters after meeting that the Senate plans to move forward with its bill and is "hopeful and optimistic" it will have bipartisan support.

"But make no mistake about it, we'll be voting tomorrow, I mean the wheel has to stop at some point," McConnell said. "And I don't want any of you to buy the notion that this isn't a thoroughly bipartisan proposal already. There's still some elbowing and maneuvering for room as you can imagine, but this is a pretty solid like bipartisan proposal agreed to by a lot of rank and file Democrats who were involved in drafting it."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he thought the meeting "was very productive" and that both sides are "very close" to a deal. He added that he doesn't think Pelosi introducing her own legislation is "productive."

"I don't know that we'd have the time for that," he said, adding he believes that "would do the country a lot of damage."

Mnuchin told reporters he's still optimistic about a deal, saying "we still think we have an overall understanding and we're going to try to get this on paper."

According to details of the bill released Thursday, Senate Republicans are proposing giving a $1,200 check to every American adult with an income under $75,000, decreasing gradually after that and zeroing out at $99,000 income. Checks would fall to $600 for those with little or no income tax liability, and $500 will be added in per child. The eligibility is based on 2018 tax filings.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has proposed universal $2,000 checks per month "for the duration of the crisis." Other Senate Democrats have suggested quarterly checks that begin at $2,000 per person, decreasing over time based on economic triggers.

The total coronavirus package McConnell released costs roughly $1 trillion. Already, Congress has approved - and President Donald Trump has signed - coronavirus aid legislation that provides free coronavirus testing and ensures paid emergency leave, among other measures.

The legislation was a heavy focus of the Sunday political talk shows. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the vote at 3 p.m. will be huge in telling Congress "if we're able to go forward" on the package.

"It'd be very hard to vote against this," he said.

The package, Toomey said, will up unemployment benefits while expanding unemployment eligibility, include direct checks, ramp up resources for hospitals and medical researchers, provide major loans to small businesses and create a "very, very large credit facility" jointly stood up by the Treasury and Federal Reserve.

"This is going to be a very, very large, very powerful combination," he said.

Speaking with "Fox News Sunday," Mnuchin called the outbreak "a very unique situation that we've never had before."

"This is the government has self-imposed shutting down large parts of the economy. And as soon as we can get the medical situation under control, we're going to reopen it," he continued. "And to the extent we've kept all these small businesses in business, we've kept workers with them, when we reopen the economy the economy is going to bounce back significantly."

He expressed hope the stimulus package is passed Monday "because we need the money now."

"I would say we're looking at this from anywhere to a 10 to 12-week scenario, but again, this situation is moving quickly," he said. "We need to get the money into the economy now. If we do that, we think we can stabilize the economy. We're putting a lot of money into the hospitals. I think the president has every expectation that this is going to look a lot better four to eight weeks from now.'

"We're going to do whatever we need to do to win this war,' he added. "I think this bill gives us a lot of money to create a lot of liquidity in the system and protect Americans. And if this lasts longer, we'll come back again."

For now, the direct payments to Americans will come in just one payment, he said.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said "there is almost no number too small" to spend on the stimulus.

"I don't think a lot of people out there really understand the systemic shock that is being experienced in the economy right now," she said. "Folks are comparing this to 2008. This is very, very different than even 2008, because what we have seen is that, almost overnight, our entire economy, even the felt economy from jobs, is seizing almost overnight."

She said "there is no reason" for "corporate bailouts to be included in an emergency relief package."

"We should be focusing, is unemployment expanding? Are we getting checks in people's hands? Are we suspending mortgage, rent and debt payments? If we're able to do that, if we're able to get money into households, and stop the bleeding with pauses on money going out of households, then we can get working families through this thing," she said. "But if all of this money is going to bailing out the airline industry in a way that does not help workers, if we're - if it's going to bailing out banks and other industries, without helping workers, then it's - then it's not going to be enough and, in fact, it could be too big. So it's really about how we're using these funds."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., highlighted some of her concerns on Twitter, saying that "Trump wants our response to be a half-trillion dollar slush fund to boost favored companies and corporate executives - while they continue to pull down huge paychecks and fire their workers."

"This is a critical moment," she said. "I saw up close the consequences of what Congress did in 2008. The current Trump proposal is far worse than the worst critique of Bush's 2008 bank bailout. And it makes no long-term changes to make future bailouts less likely."

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