Republicans prepare to unveil latest US stimulus offer

Republicans are set to unveil their proposals for a fresh round of stimulus on Monday, including $1,200 per person in direct cash payments, an extended moratorium on evictions and reduced federal unemployment benefits.

Trump administration officials previewed details of the proposed bill on Sunday, with benefits passed in March set to expire by the end of the month — risking an abrupt end to measures that have propped up the US economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary, said in a Fox News Sunday interview that the government was “prepared to act quickly” and raised the possibility of passing a new round of stimulus piece by piece, rather than in one single bill, an approach previously rejected by Democrats.

But he ruled out extending additional federal unemployment benefits at the $600 a week level instituted in March, payments that have boosted US personal income even as millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Mr Mnuchin said the administration and Senate Republicans would instead propose capping benefits at 70 per cent of prior wages.

“It just wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home than they would working and get a job,” Mr Mnuchin said.

The bill will “lengthen” the federal ban on evictions that expired on Friday, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, told CNN, and will include a second round of $1,200 stimulus cheques to individuals.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said the “final touches” on the bill set to be introduced by Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate leader, were being added on Sunday. 

“I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit, to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools,” he told ABC.

“If we can do that along with liability protection, perhaps we put that forward, get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come,” he said.

Mr Meadows said the federal government would step in to ensure that state authorities could quickly process new federal unemployment payments based on a percentage of previous salaries rather than the current fixed dollar amount.

“It’s our goal to make sure it’s not antiquated computers that keep people from getting their benefits,” he said.

Mr McConnell had planned to introduce a stimulus bill earlier this week, but negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans fell into disarray, including over disagreements about a possible payroll tax cut, which will now not be proposed.

The bill’s introduction in the Senate will trigger a new round of negotiations with Democrats, who control the House of Representatives. The House passed its own $3tn recovery package in May, but Republican leaders declared it dead on arrival in the Senate.

“They still haven’t come up with a plan. They’re fighting between themselves,” said Karen Bass, Democratic leader of the congressional black caucus, on CNN on Sunday.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, declined to say in a CBS interview if she would be willing to accept a reduction in the federal unemployment benefits but said she wanted a flat dollar amount. “The reason we had $600 was its simplicity . . . why don’t we just keep it simple?”

She also criticised Republicans for failing to introduce a new bill until now, when the previous package was close to expiring. “We’ve been anxious to negotiate for two months and 10 days,” she said, referring to the passage of the Democratic proposal in May.

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