Just a day after Senate Republicans revealed their $1 trillion stimulus package, President Donald Trump dismissed the HEALS Act as "semi-irrelevant" amid the growing economic crisis. The president's remarks came as he returned to the briefing room Tuesday, where he was asked by reporters if there were elements of the bill he opposed.
"Yeah, there are, actually," Trump, whose long sought after payroll tax cut didn't make the package, said, Fox News reports. "And we'll be talking about it. There are also things that I very much support. But we'll be negotiating. It's sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and ask and the Republicans go with theirs. So we'll be discussing that with [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch [McConnell] and all of the other people involved."
Formally introduced by McConnell and his Republican colleagues Monday, the HEALS act targets four key factors: the nation's health, the economy and unemployment, liability protections, and aid for schools as they prepare to reopen their doors. Among the provisions included are a second round of stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, which Republicans are seeking to cut from $600 to $200 per week, $105 billion for schools, and funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, among many other things. The bill, however, has mostly been met with criticism from both sides of the aisle, with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the head of the House Democratic Caucus, agreeing with the president that it is "irrelevant."
"The Republicans' coronavirus bill is not semi-irrelevant, it is totally irrelevant," Jeffries told reporters Wednesday, according to The Hill. "It is dead-on-arrival. It is a non-starter. Half the Senate Republicans don't even seem to support the Senate Republican coronavirus bill."
Although the GOP had likely been expecting pushback from their Democratic counterparts, they are also receiving criticism from their Republican colleagues over provisions in the legislation that are not related to the COVID-19 response. Such provisions include nearly $2 billion in funding for a new FBI headquarters building as well as a meal deduction for businesses.
As top White House negotiators returned for the third day of talks, Trump on Tuesday expressed hope that an agreement would be met before Congress adjourns after Aug. 7. Speaking with reporters, he praised Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, stating that he has "done a great job, keeps everybody together, both Democrat and Republican." He added that he and his fellow lawmakers "want to do what's best for the people," and he wants "to do what's best for the economy because that means jobs and lots of good things."