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Republican release next coronavirus stimulus under Democratic backlash



Republicans are revealing details about their opening bid for the next coronavirus rescue package. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell framed the measure, which he said he’d unveil within days, as a “starting place.” The rescue package, he said, would focus on “kids, jobs, and healthcare” so that the US could learn to live with the coronavirus until a vaccine becomes available

His office is drafting the next coronavirus bailout with the White House, and McConnell promised to negotiate with Democrats. The comments didn’t assuage Democratic leaders, who say they have been frustrated by being left out of the talks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were set to meet with Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon to tell them about the plan, GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters.

The GOP’s plan isn’t expected to include a boost to unemployment benefits or money for states — both of which are priorities for Democrats. When pressed about the issue during a press conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wouldn’t say whether he would accept anything less than the $600 a week boost to unemployment benefits that’s set to run out at the end of this month

Congress has only a few weeks to pass a bill before the August recess. It’s been three months since the last coronavirus stimulus, which was also first crafted by Senate Republicans with Democrats pressing for changes. 

There’s a lot at stake politically for both sides as the rescue package may be the last Congress passes before the presidential election. Here’s what we know about the Republican plan: 

Another round of stimulus checks

McConnell promised that people would get another round of checks, but wouldn’t say what income level the cutoff would be. Under an earlier stimulus, individuals who made up to $75,000 got $1,200 checks, with lower amounts going to people with higher incomes. 

$105 billion for schools and more money for childcare

Seizing on a major priority for President Donald Trump, McConnell announced that the GOP package would give $105 billion to help schools reopen safely. The money is on top of a separate plan for Republicans to provide more access to childcare, McConnell said. 

‘Targeted’ loans for small businesses

Congress already allocated $670 billion for small businesses to get forgivable loans through a fund called the Paycheck Protection Program. The fund hasn’t entirely been spent yet, but the GOP bill will add more money to it. McConnell said the next round of funding would be “targeted” with “a special eye toward hard-hit businesses.” 

‘Job market needs another shot of adrenaline’ 

McConnell said the legislation would create incentives for businesses to hire and keep workers. It will reimburse companies for safe workplaces, helping them pay for protective equipment, testing, cleaning, and remodeling where needed. 

“The American job market needs another shot of adrenaline,” he said. 

Lawsuit protections for businesses

McConnell has long said this is the priority for the party. Republicans are worried that employers and healthcare workers will face a round of lawsuits if people accuse a place of business of being the source of their infection. Business Insider obtained a copy of the draft summary being circulated at the White House last weekend.

“I won’t put a bill on the floor that doesn’t have liability protections in it,” McConnell vowed, pointing out that the protections would extend to nonprofits, hospitals, and schools. 

More money for coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and cures 

The proposal, McConnell said, would “dedicate even more resources to the fastest race for a new vaccine in human history.” The money would also pay for creating new treatments and cures. 

It will set aside funding so more people can be tested for the virus. In recent weeks testing has been overwhelmed as cases surge and more people seek a test.

Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said there needed to be a test that could be turned around more accurately and within a few minutes. Supporting the creation of such tests, he said, was key to reopening schools.

He told reporters that he stressed the need for better tests in discussions with the White House, which isn’t convinced more money for testing is needed. 

“We have had good progress,” Blunt said when asked about the White House talks. 

The package also will contain a boost in funding for hospitals, clinics, and doctors. 

Read more: Doctors are getting creative about how they care for their patients amid the pandemic. 3 physicians share what they’re doing — and the challenges they still face.

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