Senate Republicans have struggled to agree on what should be in the next coronavirus stimulus package and now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it could take "a few weeks" for a new deal to pass. The package is expected to include another stimulus check, similar to the economic impact payment included in the CARES Act passed in March. The delay also means the 20 million unemployed Americans who were receiving federal unemployment benefits will have to wait even longer for the program to be renewed.
During an event in Ashland, Kentucky, McConnell said any package everyone agrees on will take some time to pass. “Hopefully we can come together behind some package we can agree on in the next few weeks," McConnell said, reports The Washington Post. The main issue between Republicans and the White House is the enhanced federal unemployment benefits.
The CARES Act included a $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit for qualifying unemployed Americans. The program expired this week. House Democrats extended the program through January 2021 in the HEROES Act passed in May, but Republicans rejected that bill. Some Republicans have wanted to lower the program to as little as $200 to $400 a week. They also rejected calls for a temporary extension while work continued on the next stimulus package.
President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they want federal unemployment to replace about "70%" of a worker's regular income. The benefits would include about 50% state contribution and about 25% from the federal government, the Post notes. Some Republicans would prefer a flat $200 payment phasing out over time because it could be difficult for states to tailor payments based on an individual worker's previous income. This is the party's "default" position, according to one Senate Republican aide, adding that the bill would include more funding for states to upgrade their unemployment programs.
The division over the unemployment benefit has been a major issue delaying the new package, which McConnell has said will cost $1 trillion, about a third of the HEROES Act. On Thursday, McConnell said they plan to unveil the proposal "early next week" after the Trump Administration wanted more time to look over the "fine details," reports CNBC. The proposal, which still needs some Democratic support to pass the House and Senate before Trump can sign it, is expected to include a second stimulus check. Mnuchin has said it would be similar to the CARES Act's program, which entitled qualifying American taxpayers to at least $1,200 per individual.