Republicans shy away from Trump’s payroll tax cut and rely on corporate liability protection

Lawmakers note that a payroll tax cut will only help those in work at a time when record numbers of Americans are filing for unemployment. Instead, Republicans are turning their attention to protecting companies whose workers could become ill on the job. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is beginning anti-fraud measures under the Small Business Assistance Scheme. And some lawmakers are urging leaders to offer testing to members.

The Washington Post: Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut is dismissed on Capitol Hill as lawmakers debate next virus relief bill

President Trump’s latest red line for the next phase of coronavirus legislation — a payroll tax cut for workers — has few supporters even among Republicans in Congress, further complicating the path to a new bailout as House Democrats rush, already making their own plan to be published next week. (Kim, DeBonis and Werner, 5/5)

Politico: Trump’s tax cut dreams hit Republican resistance

“Not much right now,” said the Senate Finance Committee chairman, concerned that the tax cut could deplete retirement funds or leave older Americans thinking Congress isn’t taking the plight of the Social Security Trust Fund “seriously.” “I’ll give it due consideration if I see a strong group of people who think it’s the right thing to do,” added Grassley, R-Iowa, whose committee looks at federal tax policy. But he said the president’s preference isn’t the final word — a sentiment shared by many in the Senate GOP: “The president proposes we dispose of.” (Everett, 5/5)

The Associated Press: Pelosi pushes massive virus bill, but GOP is cautious

Even in their absence, House Democrats are trying to push the debate on the fifth coronavirus response bill, promising to produce a mega-package full of Democratic priorities even as a chorus of GOP leaders express hesitations about more spending. Pelosi promises the Democrat-controlled House will pass legislation to help state and local governments through the COVID-19 crisis, along with additional money for direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance and a third installment of small business assistance. The amount of the funding is to be determined. (Taylor, 5/6)

Reuters: Republicans target tax cuts in next coronavirus law; Senator warns Congress of virus spread

U.S. Republicans on Tuesday underscored the need for tax cuts and corporate liability protections in any new coronavirus legislation, while blocking an attempt by Democrats to demand transparency on a $650 billion-plus program for struggling small businesses. (Morgan and Cornwell, 5/5)

Politico: Chamber, Trial Lawyers Group say public is on their side in fight against coronavirus liability

As they prepare to take on the next bill to fight the coronavirus, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group of trial attorneys are each trying to convince lawmakers that the American public is on their side. The chamber and its allies are lobbying Congress to make it harder for workers and customers to sue companies they hold responsible for giving them the virus, arguing that such provisions will protect companies if the economy is reopened. The American Association for Justice, which represents trial attorneys, is fighting back, saying such proposals would protect reckless companies from being held accountable. (Meyer, 5/6)

The Hill: Battle Brewing on How to Get More Aid Funds for Americans

A battle is raging in Washington over how best to get more money into people’s pockets to weather the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump is making a payroll tax cut a priority for a future stimulus package, but Democrats and some Republicans aren’t keen on the idea. Democrats argue that a better option is to give Americans direct payments, as mandated in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package Trump signed into law on March 27. (Yagoda, 5/5)

The Washington Post: Protecting and Compensating Federal Employees on Coronavirus Frontier, Senators Say

Stronger steps are needed to protect and compensate federal employees in frontline positions who are at risk of exposure to the coronavirus, a group of senators said in a letter sent Tuesday to senior Trump administration officials. Federal agencies should also be further urged to allow full-time telecommuting for all employees who are eligible to work remotely, and to retain employees in paid status if they cannot telecommute but need to stay home because they are personally a are at high risk, said a letter from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and 18 other senators, most of them Democrats. (Yoder, 5/5)

The New York Times: Senators descend on tranquil Capitol, sacrificing pomp for security reasons

Lawmakers put on face masks. Congressional employees’ desks were set in plexiglass panels. The floors and sidewalks of Capitol Hill were marked with circular plaques adorned with images of feet to show lawmakers and aid workers where to stand to maintain safe social distancing – like dance step charts but to try and transmit transmission avert a deadly virus. After the Senate returned to Washington for a session that the congressional doctor said pose health risks amid the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, the chamber quickly regained some semblance of routine, but with some trappings attached to the proceedings cast an eerie shadow. (Cochrane, 5/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Department of Justice sees fraud in small business loan program hit by coronavirus crisis

Federal prosecutors are conducting a comprehensive search for fraud in emergency loan programs designed to help companies hit by the coronavirus crisis, a senior Justice Department official said Tuesday. The Justice Department “has many leads and several ongoing investigations into individuals and small businesses,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in an interview. Prosecutors will also look into the activities of banks charged with disbursing funds in some of the programs, he added. (Michaels, 5/5)

The New York Times: Paar arrested on initial fraud allegations related to small business loan program

Two New England men were arrested Tuesday for attempting to defraud the government’s small business lending program. This was the first federal fraud charge related to the $660 billion program, which aimed to help companies hurt by the coronavirus pandemic but were dealing with problems. The case against men David Staveley, of Andover, Massachusetts, and David Butziger, of Warwick, RI, is part of the Department of Justice’s broader effort to combat coronavirus-related crimes, including healthcare fraud, hoarding, price gouging and money-stealing fraud, both by people as well as by federal economic aid programs for companies in need. (Benner, 5/5)

The Hill: McConnell urged to expand Senate coronavirus testing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is coming under pressure to step up testing for the Senate coronavirus amid fears the Capitol could become a hotspot and spread infections across the country. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of McConnell’s close allies who is retiring at the end of this Congress, urged the GOP leader Tuesday to educate all members of the upper chamber before flying to the highly contagious virus tested back to their home states. (Bolton, 5/5)

The Hill: Health chief warns Senate could become ‘virus spreading machine’ without testing

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to accept test kits being offered by the White House so lawmakers can be tested for the coronavirus, before flying back to his home states. Alexander told reporters after a Republican luncheon Tuesday that he advised McConnell that it would be wise for senators and members of the House to get tested for the virus after staying in Washington, a “hot spot” of COVID-19 . (Bolton, 5/5)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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