Negotiations are continuing on the GOP's recently introduced HEALS Act, but as those talks continue to falter, the bill facing bipartisan opposition, Republicans are reportedly desperately searching for a "plan B." After the bill was introduced Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have been meeting daily with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in discussions that are "nowhere close to a deal" and "very far apart." With the clock ticking down to Congress' next recess, as well as the expiration of several measures made possible under the CARES Act, some are now looking for an alternative that will gain support on both sides of the aisle.
That revelation came from Sen. John Thune, who told reporters that some congressional lawmakers are looking for a "plan B" that has yet to take shape, The Hill reported. He said that "at this point," he does not believe there is consensus regarding what such a plan could look like, as there are "a lot of different ideas floating right now." Thune added that "nobody has settled on anything," as they are currently "just listening and seeing where things go."
His comments came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that his proposal does not have widespread support, as there are approximately 20 Republicans who oppose the legislation. The bill is so controversial that President Donald Trump has deemed it "semi-irrelevant," explaining that it is likely to undergo drastic negotiations before reaching its final form.
According to The Hill, as the controversy over the bill continues and a deal appears far off, the president, top administration officials, and Republican senators are "floating everything from a pared-down package to an attempt to force a vote on a short-term extension of federal unemployment benefits." McConnell even suggested that to bring aid to the American people before certain things expire, a smaller bill, or several smaller bills, may form, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley explaining that "there's a couple of crisis things that are coming up here next week."
Such bills could target the upcoming expiration of the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit. Although an extension is included in the HEALS Act, which has almost no chance of being approved by the Friday expiration date, it would cut that benefit to $200, something Democrats have opposed mainly. Another critical topic that could force a smaller bill is evictions. At this time, Mnuchin and Meadows have suggested that they would accept a lower bill, something that the president even recently endorsed, though it remains unclear if this will be the "plan B" that Republicans offer.