- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined the Republican priorities for the phase three coronavirus economic spending package that lawmakers are feverishly working on across Capitol Hill.

A four-part plan, Republicans aim to extend loans to small businesses; checks to the American public; major support to hard-hit industries; and more funds to the overly strained health care system. In all, the phase three bill is expected to cost more than $1 trillion. 

“These are not ordinary policies. This is no ordinary time,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Mr. McConnell highlighted the $300 billion small business relief planned rolled out by Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Susan Collins of Maine on Wednesday. It would provide loans to qualifying companies to go toward payroll and other operating expenses.

“No massive new bureaucracy. We want to let qualified small businesses get liquidity through familiar institutions — their own community banks, credit unions or nationwide lenders,” Mr. McConnell said.

“But more broadly, we need to help keep as many Americans as possible on the job and connected to their employers,” he added.

Republicans, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, are finalizing a proposal to get money directly into the pockets of the U.S. public to either help cover bills as their works shutter or give more security to spend in the struggling economy.

The administration has called for sending checks to American families across the country — $1,000 for every adult and $500 per child — starting in April.

A third part of the stimulus package would go toward hard-hit sectors of the economy that have all but ground to a halt in light of the coronavirus — particularly the airlines and cruise industries.

Mr. McConnell stressed that he did not want to consider these policies as bailouts, as members have been skittish with revisiting the controversial policies of the early 2000s.

“We are not talking about a taxpayer-funded cushion for companies that made mistakes,” he said. “We are talking about loans, which must be repaid, for American employers whom the government itself is temporarily crushing for the sake of public health.”

The package will also shore up resources for the straining health care system, which is struggling to have enough equipment and funds to address the influx of patients.

Even in laying out this third massive economic package, Mr. McConnell is looking ahead to a fourth piece of legislation — an appropriation package to keep health departments and programs funded.

“The legislation I’ve just laid out will not be the last word. As I said, we’ll need to turn right away to a bipartisan appropriations process,” Mr. McConnell said.

Democrats have criticized Republicans for not looping them in on the negotiations from the start, calling for a “four corners” process that would bring the four-party leaders on Capitol Hill together to hammer out a deal.

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