Mnuchin: Trump wants checks sent to pub­lic in virus re­sponse

The Kansas City Star - - News - BY LISA MAS­CARO AND ZEKE MILLER

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wants the govern­ment to send checks to Amer­i­cans in the next two weeks in an ef­fort to curb the eco­nomic cost of the coro­n­avirus out­break, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said Tues­day.

“The pres­i­dent has in­structed me we have to do this now,” he said at a White House brief­ing. He didn’t give de­tails ex­cept to say the amount should be sig­nif­i­cant and mil­lion­aires would not get it.

“We want to make sure Amer­i­cans get money in their pock­ets quickly,” Mnuchin said. The stock mar­ket rose dur­ing the brief­ing af­ter a sav­age drop Mon­day.

The White House on Tues­day was ask­ing Congress to ap­prove a mas­sive emer­gency res­cue package to help busi­nesses as well as tax­pay­ers cope with the eco­nomic cri­sis that is paired with the pan­demic.

Mnuchin was pitch­ing the roughly $850 bil­lion package to Se­nate Repub­li­cans at a pri­vate lunch, with of­fi­cials aim­ing to have Congress ap­prove it this week. Some law­mak­ers were skep­ti­cal.

“I’m go­ing to be very leery of do­ing some­thing like in 2008,” said In­di­ana Repub­li­can Sen. Mike Braun.

But the other se­na­tor from In­di­ana, Todd Young, chair­man of the Repub­li­can Se­nate cam­paign com­mit­tee, said he was open to ap­prov­ing $1,000 checks and wants aid out the door as as soon as possible. He said he was the only pas­sen­ger on his flight back to Washington.

Ear­lier, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell promised swift ac­tion of some sort.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, open­ing the Se­nate on Tues­day morn­ing, promised swift ac­tion.

“The Se­nate will not ad­journ un­til we have passed sig­nif­i­cant and bold new steps above and be­yond what the House has passed to help our strong na­tion and our strong un­der­ly­ing econ­omy weather this storm,” McCon­nell said.

Big­ger than the 2008 bank bailout or the 2009 re­cov­ery act, the White House pro­posal aims to pro­vide a mas­sive tax cut for wage-earn­ers, $50 bil­lion for the air­line in­dus­try and re­lief for small busi­nesses.

Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the re­quest de­scribed it on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

“There’s great spirit” among law­mak­ers, Trump said at the brief­ing Tues­day as he out­lined sev­eral el­e­ments of the res­cue plan. “I can say that for Repub­li­cans and Democrats.”

But it’s an enor­mous po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic un­der­tak­ing as a slow­mov­ing Congress tries to rise to the oc­ca­sion.

The de­bate is sure to re­vive the sharp di­vi­sions over the costly bank bailout and eco­nomic re­cov­ery of the Obama and Bush era. Par­tic­u­larly strik­ing is McCon­nell’s ur­gency af­ter hav­ing ad­journed the Se­nate over the week­end while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mus­cled through an aid package.

An­gry sen­a­tors from both par­ties boarded planes re­turn­ing to a changed Washington, as Trump de­clared a state of emer­gency, the virus spread and the eco­nomic free-fall wors­ened. De­spite fed­eral guide­lines against so many peo­ple gath­er­ing, sen­a­tors had no choice but to con­vene. Leg­is­lat­ing can­not be done from home. The House is on a re­cess.

The White House hopes the mea­sure will pass quickly, pos­si­bly this week, an enor­mous po­lit­i­cal un­der­tak­ing as the ad­min­is­tra­tion scram­bled to con­tain the eco­nomic fall­out of the se­vere dis­rup­tions to Amer­i­can life from the out­break.

White House of­fi­cials of­fered sen­a­tors a pre­lim­i­nary brief­ing late Mon­day at the Capi­tol, say­ing they want the plan ap­proved by Congress as soon as possible, sug­gest­ing in a mat­ter of days.

“ASAP,” White House eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low said late Mon­day. “There’s an ur­gency.”

The rush to in­ject cash and re­sources into the econ­omy is an ef­fort un­like any since the 2008 eco­nomic cri­sis, with po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­ter­ven­tions and eye-pop­ping sums to try to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from the health and fi­nan­cial fall­out.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do from here,” Mnuchin told re­porters late Mon­day.

The new pro­posal is be­yond the House’s es­ti­mated $100 bil­lion aid package of sick pay, emer­gency food aid and free virus test­ing that was ap­proved over the week­end and is pend­ing be­fore the Se­nate.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY AP

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin, cen­ter, speaks with re­porters af­ter meet­ing Mon­day with Se­nate Repub­li­cans.

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