Trump administration’s $850 billion economic plan faces uncertain future in Congress

CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich talks to small business owners who are suffering from the economic fallout of coronavirus.

The Trump administration’s proposal to inject $850 billion into the economy as the coronavirus pandemic becomes increasingly dire is facing resistance from Senate Democrats who are instead pushing their own alternative plan for relief.

The clash is a sign that the administration’s push marks just the start of what may be intense negotiations around what can be done next, even as lawmakers on both sides call for quick action.

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In one clear sign that the new $850 billion plan that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pitching will run into resistance, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to contrast his own proposal for coronavirus response with the Trump administration’s plan during a conference call with Democratic senators at lunch, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Schumer will outline his estimated $750 billion plan and “explain the contrast to the GOP’s expected proposals of industry bailout and tax cuts,” the aide said.

The competing plans highlight the challenge ahead for Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress as they grapple with what and how much they can do to provide relief for the American public as the coronavirus outbreak hits the United States with an increasingly dire impact.

Mnuchin plans to lay out to Senate Republicans at lunch on Tuesday the administration’s request for the next economic package, according to senators who met with him Monday night.

The cost of the package — as of Tuesday morning — will be roughly $850 billion, according to a source briefed. The final cost estimate is still being worked out.

Mnuchin said Monday as he left a meeting with GOP senators that he would talk to the Republicans on Tuesday about passing a “general” stimulus package that will be a “big number” but would not say what that figure is.

“We have a lot more work to do,” he said, “and we have to do it quickly.”

He described the actions taken by the administration and Congress as “business interruption insurance.”

The measure is expected to include aid to the airlines and small businesses, among other matters, sources and senators said.

It also is expected — at the moment — to include President Donald Trump’s request for a payroll tax holiday, something that could cause a fight on Capitol Hill. It’s uncertain that could pass Congress.

On Monday, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for reelection, seemed skeptical about a bailout package for the airline industry. “I think we will have some debate over that,” she said.

“I’m worried about a bailout but we want to make sure that we are supporting industry. But I think we need to focus on the American worker right now rather than some of the large corporations,” Ernst said.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said that the $850 billion package Mnuchin is proposing is just the “earliest stage” of the negotiations over the next economic stimulus package.

“We have a list, the administration has a list — that’s how you start the process,” Durbin said of the package. “This is just the earliest stage of it.”

Durbin also said, “It’s way too early to project a number” on how much the airlines would need.

Schumer also held a conference call with his Senate Democratic leadership team Tuesday morning to lay out his own $750 billion plan — and Democrats suggested even more additions, according to Durbin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday that the Senate will not adjourn until they build on the coronavirus response legislation passed by the House so far, saying, “it’s my intention that the Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed”

Calls to do more amid fallout from the spread of coronavirus are coming from both Republicans and Democrats. The question now is what senators on both sides of the aisle can agree to.

Schumer’s office detailed his proposal on Tuesday, which does not include aid to the airlines or a payroll tax cut, as the Trump administration is seeking.

“We are proposing an immediate and initial infusion of at least $750 billion to wage war against COVID-19 and the economic crisis it is now causing,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday.