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‘Gag and Vote For It Anyway’: McConnell Urges Republican Hold Outs to Back House Coronavirus Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the weekly policy lunch in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would push ahead with passing the $100-billion stimulus package negotiated between the White House and House Democrats last week, adding that Senate Republicans with reservations about the bill should “gag” them.

“We’re going to go on and vote as soon as the Senate can get permission to vote on the bill that came over from the House, send it down to the President . . .  and reassure the people around the country,” McConnell said. He added that “a number of my members think there are considerable shortcomings in the House bill. My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway.”

The Senate will also move ahead with drafting a phase-three package that would add additional measures to help the economy, following a closed-door lunch with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who negotiated extensively with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on the phase-two bill which McConnell will now bring to the floor.

Mnuchin announced on Tuesday that President Trump is considering sending checks to Americans as an alternative to a payroll tax cut in order to provide Americans with immediate assistance in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The package could be worth approximately $250 billion, and could be part of a larger package “that would inject $1 trillion into the economy,” Mnuchin revealed to reporters. Both the White House and Senate Democrats have proposed additional measures to supplement the House bill, which could range from $750 to $850 billion.

Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Mitt Romney (R., Utah) have all pushed for direct payments to Americans to offset economic losses.

On Monday, Cotton critiqued emergency spending legislation passed by the House as being too complicated, relying on paid sick leave and refundable tax credits when it would be faster to give cash payments directly to Americans. McConnell is now signaling that those criticisms will be considered in new bill set to be drafted by the Senate.

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