Trump to Start Stimulus Talks With McConnell Monday, Aide Says
(Bloomberg) -- Talks on a new coronavirus stimulus package will start at the White House on Monday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others, said President Donald Trump’s chief of staff.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will also be present, Mark Meadows said in a “Sunday Morning Futures” interview on Fox News Channel. Mnuchin “is leading it from our side,” Meadows said.
The meeting comes as the Trump administration balks at $25 billion in new funding favored by Republican lawmakers to help states with coronavirus testing and contact tracing, according to a person familiar.
Trump’s team also opposes a plan to allocate billions for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and extra funding for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic around the world, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Meadows said priorities include funding to expedite development of therapeutics and vaccines for the coronavirus, “protections for the American worker and those that employ individuals” and the manufacturing sector, particularly bringing jobs back to the U.S. from abroad.
“It looks like that new package will be in the trillion-dollar range, as we have started to look at it, whether it’s a payroll tax deduction, whether it’s making sure that unemployment benefits continue without a disincentive to return to work,” Meadows said.
McConnell has been preparing to unveil a GOP-only bill this week before engaging in negotiations with Democrats on what would be the fifth legislative action to address the coronavirus, and likely the last before the November election.
The person familiar said Mnuchin has proposed that the funding for coronavirus testing be cut, and money included instead for a new FBI headquarters, long a priority for Trump.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, while Treasury officials didn’t immediately comment. The administration’s proposals were first reported by the Washington Post.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the appropriations committee, had been asked to craft a health-care section of the bill and has said he wants robust funding for it.
Senate Republicans want to provide the means to ramp up coronavirus testing and contact tracing, but the administration argues that previously-approved money for testing remains unspent.
Trump has also repeatedly questioned the value of widespread testing, contending that the numbers of infections would be lower if fewer tests were conducted.
A spokesman for Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in November’s election, termed the administration’s efforts “absolutely unconscionable.”
“Donald Trump is turning his back on his most important responsibility to the American people because, in the words of his own advisers, he ‘doesn’t want to be distracted by’ the worst public health crisis in 100 years,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement on Saturday.
The White House on Thursday signaled that Trump may reject a new aid bill if it doesn’t include a payroll tax cut, which is opposed by many Democratic lawmakers as well as some Republicans.
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