Mitch McConnell has promised to bring up a $500 billion coronavirus stimulus before Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation vote. Here's what Insiders expect to make the cut

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he plans to bring a stimulus bill to the floor next week before a vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
  • McConnell's move could give vulnerable Republicans cover ahead of the November election and also challenge Democrats to turn down relief measures that have broad bipartisan support as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
  • McConnell revealed in Kentucky while on the campaign trail this week that the stimulus would cost about $500 billion and that it would help small businesses, schools, and healthcare providers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Senate Republicans are planning to vote next week on a coronavirus stimulus package that could put Democrats on the spot ahead of the November election. 

The package promised on Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also be a crucial lifeline for vulnerable Republican candidates forced to explain to voters why Congress hasn't provided additional economic relief while the pandemic rages on and jobs remain scarce.

Insiders pushing for specific provisions to be included in a relief package as well as those familiar with the Republicans' thinking say the bill will likely carry some of President Donald Trump's demands, such as a bailout for the airline industry and added aid for small businesses. 

The bill will carry a price tag of $500 billion, McConnell told reporters Tuesday in his home state of Kentucky. That's about $1.7 trillion less than Democrats are demanding, and could complicate efforts to reach a deal. 

He also indicated the Senate could take up his bill as soon as Monday when lawmakers return from their break, and just three days before a planned vote to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  

McConnell's plan comes as Trump urges Congress to "go big or go home" on aid.

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is negotiating for a $1.8 trillion package, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far rejected as too little. Rank-and-file Republicans view it as too exorbitant. 

Next week's stimulus bill would be the fourth proposed by congressional leadership that may not make it to the president's desk as lawmakers fail to agree on what should be included in the next relief package. House Democrats passed two aid packages — the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May and the $2.2 trillion HEROES 2 Act in October — and Senate Democrats blocked a separate, $300 billion GOP relief package called the HEALS Act on September 10. 

McConnell's aides declined to provide Insider with details of the new GOP bill and it appears they're still working on it. But McConnell disclosed a few provisions to reporters on Tuesday while campaigning in Kentucky. 

The GOP stimulus is unlikely to be enough for House Democrats to accept, a Democratic House aide told Insider. McConnell would also have to win over the fiscal conservatives in his caucus who say they oppose further increasing deficit spending. 

Here's what's expected to make the cut, according to insiders and McConnell's comments in Kentucky. 

Read more: Democrats just passed a $2.2 trillion package after rejecting a White House counteroffer. Here's what's in the bill, including a $600 boost to unemployment payments and an airline bailout.

Extension of small business loans

Congress already allocated $670 billion for small businesses to get forgivable loans through a fund dubbed the Paycheck Protection Program.  The program expired in August but still has about $130 billion left over that is yet to be reallocated.

McConnell promised "new funding" for the PPP but it's not clear whether he intends to simply extend the deadline for the remaining money or whether he plans to add even more federal dollars to the program. 

Boost to unemployment payments 

McConnell told reporters that the stimulus would contain a boost to unemployment payments, but didn't specify the amount. 

In the measure the Senate brought to the floor in September, people would have received $300 a week on top of their unemployment payments until the end of December. 

That boost wasn't as high as the $600-a-week increase to unemployment benefits that was established in March as part of the $2 trillion bill named the CARES Act. That provision expired at the end of July, but Democrats want to keep it going through January.

Trump extended payment boosts by $300 a week through an executive order signed on August 10. Payments lasted about six weeks in states that chose to take up the option. 

Shielding businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits

McConnell has long said that he will only allow a vote on a stimulus bill that offers more protections for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits. Republicans are worried that employers and healthcare facilities would stay closed for fear of landing in legal trouble.

The new stimulus is likely to include the Safe to Work Act, which would protect companies that are following healthcare guidelines from being sued by workers or customers who claim a business was the source of their coronavirus infection. 

Democrats have kept lawsuit shields out of their bills and instead are pushing for the federal government to institute stronger, enforceable rules for employers to follow to keep employees safe from coronavirus. 

Read more: Republicans are finalizing a plan to protect businesses from coronavirus litigation as lawsuits mount against Walmart, cruise lines, meatpacking plants, and nursing homes

A researcher works on a coronavirus vaccine at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images

Boost for hospitals and doctors, vaccines, and contact tracing 

Hospitals and doctors' offices struggled financially when state officials urged them to suspend non-emergency procedures to focus on curbing the spread of the virus. Their advocacy groups have repeatedly pushed for more funding, and Democrats support infusing another $125 billion into the industry. 

Hunter Hammond, a senior analyst at Height Capital Markets, said the Senate Republicans' bill might fall closer to the sum of the HEALS Act, of about $25 billion. He added that it was possible it would contain other parts of the HEALS Act which contained $16 billion for coronavirus testing and $20 billion for vaccine distribution and for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the agency that responds to pandemics. 

One hospital industry insider said its policy shop was hearing the details weren't set in stone, but that it expected several of the healthcare provisions in the HEALS Act to make it in. 

The previous two relief packages combined gave hospitals $175 billion, which they're allowed to use to pay for coronavirus-related expenses or lost revenue. The White House is also pouring billions of dollars in previous aid into the quick development and distribution of a vaccine. 

Read more: A Biden victory in 2020 would disrupt the race for a coronavirus vaccine. Insiders reveal the future of Operation Warp Speed minus Trump.

Aid for schools and colleges

McConnell also said schools would get a boost in the new stimulus. The money is supposed to help them reopen safely by paying for protective equipment, plastic barriers, or additional construction. It could also be used to provide computers to students for virtual learning.

The Kentucky Republican hasn't specified a dollar amount he plans to include in next week's package, but the Senate bill that failed in September contained $105 billion for schools. The amount exceeded the $100 billion Democrats initially asked for, before doubling their demands to $225 billion.

Read more: 55 million kids are stuck at home, and the US economy is losing $50 billion a month: Inside the DC clash over how to help schools reopen safely

American Airlines has warned 25,000 of its workers about potential job cuts as fewer people fly during the pandemic.Reuters

Aid for airlines 

Senators may target airlines for aid through billions of dollars in grants. The White House has pushed for relief for major airlines that have warned they will otherwise need to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

Henrietta Treys, director of economic policy research at Veda Partners, said that if Congress moves a stimulus, she expects "an airline-worker focused package is probably most likely to drive the bus, and PPP extension could hitch a ride if there are willing partners on both sides."  

But Treys also acknowledged the chances are low for a deal before the election next month.  

Big question mark: Another round of $1,200 checks 

It's anyone's guess whether families and individuals will see another round of stimulus checks. McConnell didn't mention such a provision although the White House has been pushing for it. Trump told reporters in September that he wished another round of direct checks to families and individuals had been included in the HEALS Act. 

Under the $2 trillion CARES Act, people got $1,200 in relief checks for single filers and $2,400 for joint filers.

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