Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began to roll out details to Republican colleagues for the next and potentially final coronavirus relief bill that’s expected to include liability protections, school funding and another round of stimulus checks.
McConnell said Tuesday that he is building the framework for the proposal to give to Democrats once Congress returns from recess next week.
“Once we go back into session next week, I’ll begin socializing ... internalizing, if you will, discussions that I’ve had during this week off, with my members,” McConnell said while visiting Kentucky
The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act passed by the House in May includes legislation demanded by House Democrats, including the extension of the $600 per week unemployment bonus, a part of the bill that McConnell wants to terminate.
Despite the HEROES Act passing in the House, McConnell said the bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate, and Republicans are composing their own coronavirus relief package.
“This new coronavirus package will be front and center. That will dominate our time … starting next week,” the Kentucky senator told WRVK, a radio local station.
Democrats and Republicans have less than a month to agree on the next bill, as the Senate is scheduled for recess on Aug. 7 and the House leaves July 31.
McConnell has made it clear that one of the provisions of the Republicans’ drafted measure of the bill will include a “liability shield’, which legally protects schools and businesses if a customer or employee blames them for contracting the virus. The shield would date back to December 2019 and extend to December 2024.
The senator is also focused on getting kids back into school in the fall, a movement that the White House has been stressing. Since there will be increased preparation and needed medical supplies to respond to the pandemic, McConnell said the new bill will cover some costs associated with the school’s needs.
“The US is working to do everything it can to help the 75 million students go back to schools and colleges this fall and go back safely,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, tweeted earlier in July.
President Donald Trump has threatened to defund schools that aren’t open in the fall.
McConnell also mentioned to expect another round of stimulus checks, despite GOP internal disagreements. The Senate Majority Leader said there will be a salary cap of $40,000 to target more low-income households that are struggling during the pandemic.
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March provided one-time checks of $1,200 per person making a salary of $75,000 per year or less. People making up to $99,000 received a smaller amount.
Setting a $40,000 salary limit will spark arguments from the House Democratic side, as they wanted to somewhat mirror the CARES Act financial requirements, providing checks to more than just low-income households.
The upcoming bill will also include more funding for testing and for the Paycheck Protection Program. But, qualifications for businesses to be a part of the program will be more strict.
“Any future COVID relief package needs to be measured, with a focus on getting kids back in school safely, workers back on the job and delivering liability protections for individuals related to the coronavirus crisis,” McConnell tweeted Monday.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.