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Mnuchin, Senate GOP Mull More Stimulus Checks

By Stephen Cooper · June 23, 2020, 8:14 PM EDT

Creating jobs and caring for children are priorities for the next pandemic relief bill in the Senate, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Tuesday after meeting with Republican lawmakers to discuss economic recovery from the crisis.

Senate Republicans are gathering ideas for another COVID-19 relief bill, including the possibility of another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for struggling American families, that they hope can pass the Senate in July and build on the success of March's Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act . Republicans have resisted calls for swift action on the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, a $3 trillion relief bill passed by House Democrats in May, and their meeting with Mnuchin was called to get an update on job growth, retail sales and plans for moving forward with economic recovery efforts.

"We're talking about a bunch of different ideas that we may need to do in another bill," Mnuchin told reporters. "Whatever we do, it will be much more targeted, much more focused on jobs — bringing back jobs —  and making sure we take care of our kids."

Mnuchin's meeting with congressional Republicans came after recent remarks from President Donald Trump indicating he would be open to another round of direct stimulus payments distributed by the Internal Revenue Service. Lawmakers leaving the meeting with Mnuchin said they had not decided whether more cash payments would be the right way to help Americans.

"I'm still trying to figure out if that's going to be needed," said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Lankford added that he had unanswered questions about how to provide targeted and limited relief that sustains Americans and reengages the U.S. economy.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Mnuchin indicated that a late July time frame for Senate action would be appropriate as more of the economy reopens. The goal is to move from rescuing an economy that was "quickly approaching free fall to now what do you need to have a recovery," Blunt said.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, left the meeting with questions about how to target economic relief efforts to Americans, noting that a second round of stimulus checks would depend on economic results reported from June.

"What do you do with unemployment insurance, which has some of the similar impacts [as stimulus checks] to people who are not employed?" Portman said. "What to do with the payroll tax, which would go to people who are employed? So they all need to work together."

Other Republicans have suggested their own proposals for economic recovery.

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., unveiled a proposal Monday to provide a $4,000 tourism tax credit for individual taxpayers and $8,000 for joint filers, with an extra $500 for dependent children. The credit for domestic travel could be claimed for trips at least 50 miles from home. McSally said it would help reverse the decline in spending on lodging, travel and entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The American Tax Rebate and Incentive Program Act will help "boost domestic travel and jump-start the comeback of our hotels, entertainment sectors, local tourism agencies," she said in a statement accompanying the bill's introduction.

--Editing by Joyce Laskowski. 

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