Senate Republicans expected to release third coronavirus relief package Thursday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters after the Senate voted to acquit U.S. President Trump of both charges in his Senate impeachment trial in Washington, February 5, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their proposal for a third coronavirus relief package Thursday afternoon as Washington moves swiftly to head off economic disaster, NBC News reported. 

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his caucus was close to releasing a plan. Lawmakers are expected to inject well above $1 trillion into the economy. 

“[Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley] and a number of our colleagues are finalizing a structure that would get assistance to individuals and families rapidly as possible,” he said.  “Senate Republicans want to put cash in the hands of the American people.”

The Senate has been under immense pressure to get a deal done with the House and Trump administration as quickly as possible. The ailing U.S. airline industry, which is expecting financial relief from the package, has rung the alarm of the catastrophic impact the halt in travel has on business. It is unclear how much longer companies can stay afloat without federal relief. 

Workers have lost jobs at shuttered restaurants and bars. Lawmakers have expressed particular concern about how the global pandemic will hit American small businesses. 

Adding to the urgency, two congressmen have tested positive for coronavirus, while others are in self-quarantine. 

Still, the latest package may get caught up in political wrangling. House Democrats have largely been kept out of the loop of the negotiations, one Democratic aide told CNBC. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has criticized Senate Republicans for negotiating a deal among themselves and the administration.

And there may be a debate between the parties about the administration’s proposal to offer checks to Americans as a means of relief, a move some Democrats have argued may not be enough.

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell indicated his support of direct aid. When speaking of getting money into the pockets of American workers he implored, “no tangled Washington process with a thousand cooks in the kitchen. No piles of forms for laid-off workers or busy families to fill out,” he said. 

“For laid-off Americans,” he added, “this infusion would complement unemployment insurance and could be put toward immediate need during this crisis.”

Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have focused their arguments on expanded unemployment insurance, not checks. Earlier Thursday, the New York Democrat said any assistance for struggling industries must include “worker priorities and worker protections.” 

He also called for a “Marshall Plan” for the health care system to increase production of ventilators and the setup of new hospital space. 

Once the Senate strikes an agreement and passes a relief package, it will head to the House, which is on a temporary recess. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told members Thursday that the chamber would not return until it is “in a position to vote on the third piece of emergency legislation to respond to the economic impact of this crisis.”

Meantime, McConnell indicated that even this next legislative package, likely to top $1 trillion, may not be enough to offer sufficient government relief as business across the U.S. economy grinds to a halt. 

“This may not be the last piece of economic legislation we pursue,” he acknowledged. 

This is developing news. Check back for updates.

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