KINGSPORT, Tenn. (NEXSTAR) — The week began with the White House again signaling support for Round 2 of stimulus relief for Americans. How and when that happens remains largely up in the air.
“We are working on another stimulus package, and that will take place … very soon,” President Donald Trump told Jessi Turnure, a reporter for the Nexstar Washington, D.C., Bureau.
Trump said his administration and Congress are currently negotiating the exact amount included in the next round of coronavirus relief.
During a public appearance in Kentucky on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a second round of stimulus payments will likely target people who were most impacted by the pandemic.
“I think the people who have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 a year or less,” McConnell said on Monday. “And many of them work in the hospitality industry.”
McConnell said the Senate will consider a second stimulus package when lawmakers return from recess on July 20.
Meanwhile, differing opinions among Republicans on another round of direct payments have made their way to the campaign trail in states such as Tennessee. More than a dozen candidates are running in the August primary for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District. And as of now, the candidates in this eastern Tennessee race can’t agree on the best path moving forward.
Candidate Diana Harshbarger, a pharmacist and business owner, said many people and businesses could still benefit from a second round of stimulus checks.
“I think there needs to be some tweaks to the stimulus checks,” said Harshbarger. “If they can make it a clean stimulus to where you don’t attach anything else to it, just give people the money they need to continue to be successful with their business — that’s what I’m for.”
Rusty Crowe, a Tennessee state senator since 1991, said workplaces should focus on getting people back to work more quickly.
“Between the state, and between the nation, people are being taken care of well,” said Crowe. “I’m not sure, you know, if we need another stimulus or not. I think we just need to try to get people back to work and do it safely.”
Many other candidates in the race seem to have adopted the wait-and-see attitude.
“I think we need to wait a little bit and see what the reaction is across the country with our economy,” said former Kingsport Mayor John Clark. “There are folks that are getting back to work now. That’s a good thing. Some folks though, we’re hearing, really don’t want to work, as they did receive their stimulus check.”
“If we do another stimulus, it’s another $3 trillion we would go into debt,” said Republican state Rep. David Hawk. “The answer on the stimulus going forward is, can we pay it back in a reasonable amount of time?”
Politics at play
If you ask lawmakers why additional payments haven’t been distributed to Americans, Democrats will point the finger at McConnell while Republicans will blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
The bottom line: No new checks until things get worked out. And in the nation’s capital, that’s not always easy.
“I’m not that optimistic that anything will happen in Washington when it comes to another COVID-related stimulus bill,” said Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. “Speaker Pelosi decided on her own to put a $3 trillion wish list together, and that allowed everyone in Washington to retreat to their partisan corners.”
Some lawmakers such as Rep. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, feel we need a “wait-and-see” approach to any future relief.
“I don’t think we need to be spending more money right now,” Marshall said.
Davis believes the route Democrats took with loading $3 trillion into the HEROES Act makes it “more difficult to put any bipartisan legislation together in the future.”
The HEROES Act was passed by House Democrats in May and would offer another round of $1,200 checks to American adults and children. It also expands the number of people who are eligible to receive government aid by including college students and older teenagers. The payments would be capped at $6,000 per household.
As you might imagine, Democratic congressmen see things differently.
“We’re waiting for Mitch McConnell over on the Senate side to get off his rear end and do something,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat. “Up to this point, he’s done nothing.”
“We need to do something,” McGovern added.
Rep David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, agreed with McGovern in saying that McConnell needs to take action, even if it’s creating his own GOP relief package and trying to push it through.
“What he can’t do is nothing,” said Cicilline. “There are too many people in this country hurting, there are too many people that have been impacted by COVID-19, and they expect Congress to provide additional relief.”