WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump met with fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to discuss a fiscal stimulus plan to bolster the nation’s economy in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Any plan the White House introduces will need to be approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress. Expect Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, and Republicans, who control the Senate, to battle over the shape of the stimulus in the weeks to come.
Here are some of the ideas being put forward by the different groups.
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin presented options for a stimulus package, but did not have a detailed plan.
Trump has been focused on a payroll tax cut, advisers say, but has also publicly pledged relief for the airline, hotel, and cruise industries in recent days.
Employees and employers each pay 6.2% of a worker’s gross pay in payroll tax, which goes to fund Social Security and unemployment compensation, among other things.
Trump, who is up for re-election in November, told Republicans at the meeting that if a payroll tax cut is implemented, he would like it to last until after the election, or for it to become permanent.
Pence told the senators that the government insurers Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private insurers, have agreed to cover the cost of coronavirus tests, and the deductibles related to them.
Mnuchin presented several options for deferred tax payments, Republicans said, including allowing companies and individuals to defer taxes interest free.
“There’s great unity within the Republican party,” Trump said on Capitol Hill after the meeting.
However, several key Republican lawmakers who spoke afterward emphasized targeted aid rather than an across-the-board tax cut, though they were vague about their solutions.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said he was pushing for investment in vulnerable sectors of the economy, adding that he would like to see paid sick leave and loans to small businesses that have been particularly hard hit by coronavirus.
Any stimulus package could cost about $300 billion, Rubio said, and last until the end of the calendar year.
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, said his goal was to address the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak in a “surgical way.” He added “I want to be smart and help those that need the help.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that a package being put together by Democrats was being analysed by Congress’s budget office.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on Tuesday that the U.S. government should ensure free coronavirus testing for all who want it, whether they have insurance or not. Patients should also be reimbursed for other coronavirus-related costs, he said.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said the relief package should include two weeks of paid sick leave. Roughly one out of three U.S. workers do not get paid sick leave, according to the Labor Department, which labour exports say creates an incentive for sick people to come to work and infect others.
Pelosi and Schumer have called for enhancing the limited payments that some U.S. workers qualify for when they lose their jobs. The 2009 Recovery Act boosted those payments by $25 per week and extended them for a longer period of time.
The two senior Democrats have also proposed expanding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the food stamp program, which helps low-income people buy groceries, as well as programs that provide free breakfast and lunch to low-income schoolchildren.
They want the Trump administration to suspend a plan due to take effect on April 1 that would scale back SNAP.
Democrats also want health workers and others who are in contact with those exposed to the disease to have protective equipment.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan, Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland; Editing by Heather Timmons and Sonya Hepinstall