With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many Senate Republicans balking at the recently proposed COVID-19 stimulus package of $1.8 trillion, the Trump administration on Sunday pressed for a boost to small businesses, if nothing else, amid talks that have collapsed several times over price tags and ideological divisions since the spring.
In a letter to lawmakers Sunday, President Donald Trump’s top negotiators, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, called on Congress to “come together and immediately vote on a bill” to allocate unused funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, Politico and The Washington Post reported. The PPP, established in the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, provided forgivable loans to small businesses impacted by the pandemic across the country. Lawmakers and businesses say the loans helped many owners retain workers and stay afloat so far through the crisis.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have largely agreed on boosting the PPP, as well as another round of direct payments to Americans, but Democrats and Republicans, and the Trump administration, have failed to finalize a deal.
The president at one point abruptly cut off talks and then announced they would resume.
Mnuchin and Meadows on Sunday urged Congress to at least allow flexibility in the PPP while toiling on a more comprehensive package.
“The all-or-nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people,” the men wrote. “We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Senator (Chuck) Schumer. It is not just about the top-line number but also about legislation that can be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Trump to help the American people.”
The administration has issued conflicting statements on stimulus, with Trump saying he wanted a “bigger” package than either party had already offered, even as White House officials say they want the deal to come in under $2 trillion, The Washington Post reported.
Democrats have repeatedly called for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments. But many Republicans in the House and Senate are concerned over the rising national deficit, noting several trillion dollars have already been pumped into the economy since the pandemic began.
Larry Kudlow, Trump administration economic adviser, told CNN on Sunday that Mnuchin “may” offer a proposal larger than Pelosi’s recent $2.2 trillion offer. He argued another stimulus was not dead “at all.”
Stimulus checks to millions of Americans, enhanced unemployment assistance, rejuvenating the PPP and funding for airlines are all on the table, Kudlow said, noting each had bipartisan support.
“We could do it as standalone bills or an omnibus bill or whatever,” said Kudlow, who blamed Democrats, despite several Republican senators not on board with the costly recovery efforts.