Coronavirus

Second stimulus check: White House pushes 'skinny' Covid-19 stimulus bill

Trump's administration is pushing for Congress to approve a slimmed-down coronavirus economic relief bill that may well not include a second stimulus check.

Second stimulus check: White pushes 'skinny' Covid-19 stimulus bill
TOM BRENNER REUTERS

As many millions of Americans struggle in an economy that has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, talks over a further stimulus package are still stalled between lawmakers.

Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed measures, both of which include a second round of stimulus checks, but the gap between the Democrat's $3 trillion HEROES Act and the Republican's $1 trillion HEALS Act has proved too big to bridge so far, with the Senate eventually going on August recess last week, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeping senators in Washington past the due date of 7 August.

White House pushes for 'skinny' coronavirus stimulus package

In a bid to get things moving, The White House on Wednesday pushed for Congress to take up a narrow coronavirus economic relief bill that Democrats have long rejected, while a leading Senate Democrat said real action may come soon after the 7 September US Labor Day holiday.

With the breakdown of talks between the White House and top congressional Democrats now in its 12th day, Senate Republicans are floating a 'skinny' version of the $1 trillion bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a possible vote in the Republican-led chamber.

That bill ran into immediate opposition from both Democrats and McConnell's own Republicans when he unveiled it late last month.

Fears over absence of second stimulus checks in the 'skinny' bill

The slimmed down relief package is likely to contain a range of measures from the broader proposals, but one thing that is conspicuously absent is mentions of a further round of $1,200 stimulus checks that were included in both the HEROES and HEALS Acts.

The 'skinny' bill is likely to contain: $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits; aid for small business, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as funding for health and education.

It is strange that there would not be a second round of stimulus checks, because this appeared to be one measure that had received broad support from both parties and the White House.

Meadows urges Dem action

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called on Democrats to use Saturday's vote on US Postal Service legislation in the House of Representatives as a vehicle for coronavirus relief including stimulus checks for individuals and funding for personal protective equipment and schools.

"I think the outlook for a skinny deal is better than it's ever been and yet we are still not there," Meadows told reporters. "If Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi moves forward a single bill on postal ... let's add in the things we can agree upon."

But Democrats have flatly rejected White House and Republican calls for narrow legislation, saying Americans need broad legislation and accusing Republicans of failing to grasp the severity of the crisis.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said that he does not expect the White House to get serious about negotiations until after next week's Republican presidential election convention, where he expects Republicans to tout President Donald Trump's executive orders on coronavirus relief.

"Once we get out of the Republican convention, the week before Labor Day, you're going to see serious negotiations restart. And that means we could do something possibly right after Labor Day, when we return," Kaine said in an online interview with Politico.

The Senate is due to return from recess on 8 September and the House on 14 September.