Senate GOP crafting new massive coronavirus package ‘at warp speed’

That Phase 2 package, hammered out in talks between Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), provides paid sick days and emergency leave for employees who become infected or have to deal with family members who are sick.

McConnell said there had been some consideration of holding onto the Phase 2 bill until the Phase 3 proposal was ready and then merging them, but he decided against it.

The Kentucky Republican also noted that some of his rank-and-file members didn’t like the House bill, but said, “My counsel to them is to gag and go for it anyway even if they think it has some shortcomings, and to address those shortcomings in the bill we’re in the process of crafting.”

McConnell said he’d created three Republican task forces to put together the Senate GOP version of a Phase 3 bill. Once that’s done, McConnell said he would then enter into negotiations with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to come up with a bipartisan package that can win at least 60 votes.

A senior administration official put the price tag on the legislative stimulus package at $1 trillion. In addition to the direct payments, the administration also wants $50 billion for airlines and the remaining amount focused on assistance to small and medium size businesses for workers and other priorities, the official said.

Mnuchin warned unemployment could spike to double-digit levels unless Congress acted, according to a source familiar with his comments. Bloomberg News first reported the comment.

The White House Tuesday morning also began signaling it was aiming for as much as $1 trillion in stimulus spending, split between a payroll tax cut, support for the airline industry and $250 billion in loans for small business.

Even before the legislation moves in the Senate, House Democratic leaders were working to quell rank-and-file anger over the amended bill, which actually included a significant rewrite to the paid leave language in a major concession to the White House.

The change — which would allow more businesses to seek exemptions from offering their employees paid leave — was pushed by administration officials as necessary to get the bill through the Senate, according to multiple sources.

Pelosi appeared to address the criticism from some in her caucus in a statement on Tuesday, in which she vowed to push for expanded paid leave in the next package.

“As the House develops our third Families First package, we are working to advance additional steps to expand the emergency leave mandate,” Pelosi wrote, laying out several provisions, including allowing workers who are sick to access longer term leave.

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