Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that Republicans want to give jobless Americans unemployment ‘based on approximately 70 per cent wage replacement’ as part of the fourth economic stimulus bill responding to the coronavirus crisis.
Mnuchin appeared Thursday morning on CNBC and then spoke to reporters at the White House and didn’t say how the scheme would work with states’ outdated unemployment disbursement systems.
He and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are leading negotiations for the Trump administration on the new bill, with bargaining beginning in earnest this week with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Republicans are trying to come up with a plan before sitting down with Democrats, a tactic panned by both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who addressed reporters Thursday morning.
‘Democrats are ready to work,’ Schumer said. ‘Republicans need to pull their head out of the sand, get their act together, sit down with Speaker Pelosi and me and start negotiating a real package.’
Schumer and Pelosi played up the fact that the 70 per cent figure amounts to a pay cut for American workers.
‘That’s right America, if you lost your job through no fault of your own and can’t go back to work because this administration has mismanaged the crisis, Republicans want you to take a pay cut of 30 per cent or even more,’ Schumer said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday on CNBC that Republicans want to replace the $600-a-week unemployment benefit with a ‘approximately 70 per cent wage replacement’ plan
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right) said at a Thursday morning press conference that the plan floated by Mnuchin would amount to a pay cut for American workers
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said that the Democrats had not received any language on paper from the Republican side on what the GOP plan entailed
Steven Mnuchin confirmed to reporters that the payroll tax, which President Trump (pictured) wanted, would not be in the new package, a blow for the White House
Pelosi said she’d like to keep the current dollar amount.
‘I go to the table with the commitment to the $600,’ Pelosi said at the morning presser.
But both Democratic leaders said the Republicans didn’t have an actual plan down on paper yet.
Pelosi answered ‘no’ when asked if she’d received any kind of documentation.
‘We learned some of it early this morning, is what we learned from K Street,’ she said, referencing the D.C. street where lobbying shops are located.
Playbook reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was supposed to rollout the Republican plan Thursday morning, but GOP lawmakers and the White House couldn’t come to an agreement.
Mnuchin and Meadows had to rush to Capitol Hill to deal with an angry McConnell, Playbook said.
Schumer hinted at the drama by pointing to McConnell’s no-show status on the Senate floor.
‘Look, Leader McConnell didn’t even show up and make a speech this morning,’ the New York Democrat told reporters. ‘I had it all to myself – rare moment.’
Schumer said he hoped Republicans could come up with a plan before the unemployment benefits expire.
‘They’re so divided and there’s no leadership from the president. At the same time that they know the president has no leadership they’re afraid to buck him on anything and he doesn’t know how to solve this problem,’ Schumer said.
The CARES Act had afforded unemployed Americans a $600-a-week unemployment insurance boost, which is set to expire at the end of the month.
That benefit looked to be on the chopping block due to Republican resistance.
As of Wednesday afternoon, CNBC reported that Republicans were considering changing it back from $600 to $100-a-week.
In the Oval Office Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had voiced concerns about giving Americans too much unemployment – essentially paying them more to not work than work.
‘We don’t think any federal money should be spent it gives you a disincentive to work,’ he said in a meeting with President Donald Trump, Mnuchin, Meadows and McConnell.
It would be unclear how structuring a 70 per cent wage replacement would work.
CNBC pointed out that lawmakers chose the $600-a-week figure, in part, because state’s systems to disburse unemployment funds are outmoded and couldn’t handle a 100 per cent wage replacement scheme, which had been discussed.
Democrats were immediately wary of the figure.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNBC after Mnuchin made his comments that 70 per cent wage replacement was not ‘the policy we ought to pursue.’
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said ‘if we’re going to ratchen that down, it ought to be over time.’ But he also added that, ‘it’s not a dealbreaker.’
Mnuchin told reporters at the White House that the payroll tax cut, which Trump had peronally pitched, was not going to be in the new bill, a blow for the White House.
Another round of direct payments to Americans, like the $1,200 checks given out by the federal government earlier in the coronavirus crisis, will likely be in the bill, with McConnell and the White House signaling support.