President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he may suspend the payroll tax himself as part of his administration's efforts to help the economy after the coronavirus shutdown, after the idea faced opposition in Congress in talks on the next relief bill.
"Well I may do it myself," Trump said in an interview with Fox News. "I have the right to suspend it, and I may do it myself - I have the absolute right to suspend the payroll."
But as talks over the contours of the next coronavirus relief package grind on in Washington, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling his openness to a to jobless aid extension that the GOP has long resisted.
Negotiators on Capitol Hill reported little progress on Tuesday toward reaching an agreement over an economic recovery package, The New York Times reported. This, though representatives of opposing parties were meeting in the latest effort to move the mired process along.
Against that backdrop, The Times said, McConnell, R-Ky., the leading Senate Republican, showed a willingness to shift positions and accept an extension of $600-per-week enhanced unemployment payments, if the result would be a compromise.
“The American people, in the end, need help, and wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team that has to sign it into law and the Democrat not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House is something I am prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” McConnell told reporters, The Times said.
Many Republicans have been disinclined to extend the enhanced jobless benefit because they fear it'll be a disincentive for some to reenter the workforce. They argue with state benefits many jobless receive over $50,000 a year annualized – more than they made in their previous job.
President Trump has said he opposed the $600 a week supplement.
An open question is whether that signal will lead to any meaningful progress in talks over the aid package. Democrats, for their part, have been pressing for a broader package of relief measures and not merely a narrow extension of the enhanced benefit. And they want any package to incorporate federal aid for states and cities whose budgets have been hit hard by the monthslong pandemic.
As reported by The Times, McConnell’s comments came after he and other Republicans met for lunch with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.
The jobless benefits have technically run out. And senators are set to start a monthlong recess that extends through Labor Day on Friday, creating particular unease over the tense relief negotiations.
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