- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2020

Conservative allies of President Trump warned Friday that the emerging coronavirus relief package in Congress could split the Republican Party if it fails to include a payroll tax cut.

Conservative economist Steve Moore, an outside adviser to the president, said if the $1 trillion Senate GOP proposal contains mostly new spending and no new tax cut, “then I think you’re going to see a very divided Republican Party, and a lot of conservative opposition to that bill.”

“That’s not a good look for the party as it goes into the November elections. We need unity,” Mr. Moore, co-chair of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, told reporters on a conference call.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said the package must “create incentives for people to work and employers to hire.”

“That’s why the payroll tax holiday is so important,” he said.

The president said Thursday that he had abandoned his push for a payroll tax cut, citing opposition from Democrats. Some Republicans also oppose the idea.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that the GOP and the White House have struck an agreement in principle on the bill. But some major components, such as the level of weekly extended unemployment benefits, are still being negotiated before the bill is introduced next week.

Democratic leaders, who are pushing for passage of a $3 trillion House-approved relief bill, are insisting on an extension of $600-per-week unemployment benefits, which expire July 31. The White House is considering a lower benefit.

Mr. Moore and Mr. Blackwell said no bill would be better than renewing the unusually high unemployment benefits and adding trillions to the record budget deficit.

Mr. Moore said many GOP lawmakers believe a payroll tax cut is the “single most important feature” of an economic stimulus bill. He said conservatives haven’t given up on trying to include it in the final deal, and that he had spoken to several GOP lawmakers on Friday “trying to figure out exactly what the Republican position is.”

He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are pushing for a six-month extension of the $600 benefit because it will preserve a major disincentive for people to go back to work.

“They’re not stupid,” Mr. Moore said. “They know that if you pay people not to work, you’re going to get less people working, and it’s going to impair Trump’s reelection prospects. That’s why Republicans have to fix this problem.”

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