President Trump says Republicans are working to draft a new coronavirus bill and that he plans to pressure states to allow churches to reopen as the pandemic ebbs.
Trump said he met on Thursday with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to discuss priorities for legislation — after Trump and McConnell flatly rejected a $3 trillion bill passed by House Democrats on Friday.
“We just had a meeting with Mitch McConnell and the group and we’re working on a package of very positive things,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to Michigan.
Trump said he separately plans to push states to allow churches to resume operations as local authorities gradually end two months of mandated business closures and quarantine rules.
“The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open, and we’re going to be taking a very strong position on that very soon,” he said.
After four major coronavirus bills, Trump is pushing for a payroll tax cut in new legislation and McConnell wants liability protections for companies that reopen. But Democrats who hold the House insist on state bailouts, which Trump and Republicans are wary of granting.
Republicans also are skeptical of a Democratic proposal to extend a $600 per week boost in unemployment insurance pay through January. Members of both parties, however, expressed interest in additional stimulus checks and new infrastructure spending.
Each of the prior pandemic bills were drafted during late nights of bargaining between the White House, McConnell and congressional Democrats.
McConnell’s office and the White House did not immediately offer additional information on the Thursday meeting.
In a Thursday morning speech on the Senate floor, McConnell blasted House Democrats for authorizing proxy voting on Friday, saying “there will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum [of 50 percent attendance].”
The Democratic reform allows House lawmakers to vote for up to 10 colleagues.
McConnell did not mention elements of emerging GOP legislation on the floor, but knocked Democrats for holding few House gatherings, despite senators continuing to show up on Capitol Hill.
“I’m wondering if we should send senators over there to collect their newspapers and water their plants,” McConnell said. “About the only product to emerge from their lengthy sabbatical has been an 1,800-page $3 trillion messaging bill that couldn’t even unite their own conference.”