White House officials have discussed trying to unilaterally provide support for the flagging airline industry while also bolstering unemployment benefits, according to two people aware of the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal policy discussions. The White House has also discussed moving without Congress to direct more money for school vouchers and changing President Trump’s recent payroll tax changes to make it more effective.
In August, Trump signed four executive actions meant to provide more unemployment aid, eviction protections, student loan relief and to defer payroll tax payments. The moves have had mixed success and were meant to address political talks that had faltered on Capitol Hill.
The bipartisan urgency that propelled Congress to act with near-unanimity in March and April to approve an unprecedented $3 trillion in relief has evaporated. In its place is bitter partisan bickering, with each side accusing the other of playing politics and acting in bad faith.
“Democrats just point fingers, call names and keep blocking American families from getting any more help before the November election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
The Senate GOP economic relief bill would provide more money for small businesses, $300 weekly unemployment benefits and include a number of other priorities such as lawsuit protections for businesses. It would not include more money for things such as stimulus checks or state aid. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in Senate, and it is expected to fall short in a procedural vote set for Thursday.
McConnell has been under pressure from a handful of vulnerable GOP incumbents who wanted to vote on a coronavirus-relief measure before going back to their states for the final campaign push. The new bill, even if it doesn’t become law, could aid in those efforts, some Republicans believe.
“I think the opportunity to signal their support for a targeted, responsible and responsive package this week is going to be essential,” said Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) questioned McConnell’s motives in putting forward a bill that can’t pass. “Is it because they really don’t want a bill, but a political issue — one that will ultimately backfire on them, I believe?” Schumer said.
Democratic leaders and top White House officials met in July and parts of August to try to reach an agreement on a new economic-relief package, concerned about the impact of expiring unemployment benefits, small business aid and eviction protections. But those negotiations faltered as both sides dug in, and Democrats and Republicans have only drifted further apart since then.
Asked whether a deal was possible on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was not sure.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” he told reporters. “I hope there is. It’s important to a lot of people out there.”
The only negotiations happening are on a stand-alone spending bill known as a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the