President Trump Plans Payroll Tax Relief In Response To Coronavirus

Mar 10, 2020, 5:05 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with members ...
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force team in the press briefing room of the White House March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Also pictured, from L-R, Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and Vice President Mike Pence. President Trump said he will hold a press conference on Tuesday concerning COVID-19 and other topics. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s proposed payroll tax break met with bipartisan resistance Tuesday on Capitol Hill as pressure mounts on the administration and Congress to work more vigorously to contain the coronavirus outbreak and respond to the financial fallout.

Flanked by his economic team, Trump pitched his economic stimulus ideas privately to wary Senate Republicans on another grueling day in the struggle against expanding infections. Fluctuating stock markets rebounded but communities discovered new cases and the two top Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, canceled Tuesday primary night rallies in Ohio.

The president’s GOP allies have been cool to additional spending at this stage, especially for cutting taxes that would have to be reimposed later — presumably after the November election. Democrats prefer their own package of low- or no-cost virus testing, unemployment insurance and sick pay for workers struggling to keep paychecks coming as the outbreak disrupts workplaces.

“We’re taking this unbelievably seriously,” Trump said after his meeting at the Capitol. “It will go away, just stay calm.”

Asked why he has not yet been tested for the virus, after having been in close contact with several advisers and members of Congress who are now self-quarantined after exposure, Trump said: “I don’t think it’s a big deal” and “I feel very good.”

White House officials have been blindsided by the president’s sudden moves. As Trump headed to Capitol Hill, two administration officials said the proposals he was putting in play had not been completed. They were unauthorized to discuss the planning and requested anonymity.

Trump’s team offered few specifics at the closed door GOP lunch on the size of the payroll tax break or its duration, senators said. Trump has long promised to bring about an election year “tax cuts 2.0,” and seemed to be seizing on the virus fears as a way to bring about a victory on that front before November. Behind closed doors he discussed the coming elections in swing states like Arizona and Montana where GOP senators face tough races.

In addition to payroll tax relief, Trump has said he wants help for hourly-wage workers to ensure they’re “not going to miss a paycheck” and “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault.” He’s also mentioned small-business loans. But details are slight.

So far, the president’s approach, based on tax breaks, is receiving a cool response. Some Republicans endorsed Trump’s suggestion that help be provided to the beleaguered cruise-ship and airline industries, while others spoke up for other industries, including energy and gas. Some pushed for broader economic stimulus from a bipartisan highway bill they said was shovel-ready and popular. The payroll tax plan remains a work in progress.

“They didn’t get into specifics,” said the No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

Increasingly, it appears a solution will originate in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats they would keep working this week despite concerns about the risk of infection at the Capitol.

“We are the captains of the ship,” Pelosi said during a closed-door meeting, according to a person in the room unauthorized to discuss the private caucus and granted anonymity. “We are the last to leave.” But time is short as Congress heads toward its scheduled break next week.

Trump tapped Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to meet with Pelosi, whose support will be needed for any deal in the divided Congress, where Republicans hold the Senate majority but Democrats hold the House.

Munchin declared the meeting with Pelosi “productive” and said they’d “work together on a bipartisan basis to figure out how we can get things done quickly.”

Pelosi insisted the “threshold” for any proposal must be its ability to respond to the virus. Her team was preparing to come out with a package in the next day or so.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was noncommittal after the meeting with Trump, emphasizing the path forward rests in the talks between Mnuchin and Pelosi. “We’re hoping that he and the speaker can pull this together,” he said.

That reflected divisions even within the administration on the best approach. The payroll-tax plan found support from Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and trade adviser Peter Navarro, among others. Other aides, including Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow advocated more modest measures. Trump prefers the payroll tax holiday “last through the end of the year,” Kudlow said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

In Washington, there were mixed signals about the public mood. Tourists still arrived for visits while marquee events, including this weekend’s Gridiron Club dinner, an annual mingling of political Washington, was postponed.

At the U.S. Capitol, some senators said they resisted shaking Trump’s hand when he arrived for lunch. Lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings. He recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

Crowds are the norm in the Capitol and handshakes are coin of the realm there, even between political foes. But about a half dozen lawmakers — including Trump confidantes — have placed themselves in quarantine after being exposed to someone who had the virus, and the norm has been upended.

One, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, who self-quarantined after having traveled with the president from Florida on Air Force One on Monday, said he had tested negative for the disease. He said he would remain quarantined as a precaution. Another, Trump’s incoming chief of staff. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C, remains on quarantine.

During House Democrats’ closed session, one lawmaker, California Rep. Raul Ruiz, who is a doctor, raised concerns about the situation, noting that the average age in Congress is 57. Some lawmakers have underlying health conditions and their work requires them to fly back and forth between home and the capital.

Still, Pelosi implored lawmakers to keep working to strengthen the country’s defenses.

But House and Senate leaders have made it clear there will be no voting by proxy. Quarantined lawmakers will be missing votes. Lawmakers were told up to 10,000 staff members could telework, if need be.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which monitors financial markets, encouraged employees at its Washington headquarters to work from home after an employee there had respiratory symptoms and was referred for coronavirus testing.

And Defense Secretary Mark Esper postponed a trip to India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan that was to begin Monday, citing the coronavirus crisis, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said Tuesday. She said he would remain in the U.S to help manage the Pentagon response.


Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard, Andrew Taylor, Kevin Freking, Jill Colvin, Bob Burns, and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


FILE PHOTO (Photo by Jacob King - WPA Pool/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

Moderna COVID-19 shots now an option for older kids in US

There is now a second COVID-19 option for kids ages 6 to 17 in the U.S.
1 day ago
Pfizer says it's COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in kids 12 to 15. (Justin Tallis-Pool/Getty Ima...
Jen Christensen, CNN

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects in young kids? Experts seek to ease parents’ concerns

Experts look at what side effects to expect from the COVID vaccine for children six months and older.
3 days ago
The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
4 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
4 days ago
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about Covid-19 vaccines for children, in the Roosevelt Room of the ...
ZEKE MILLER and JOSH BOAK, Associated Press

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

President Joe Biden is celebrating that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend.
4 days ago
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...

US opens COVID vaccine to little kids; shots begin this week

The U.S. on Saturday opened COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The shots will become available this week, expanding the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 6 months.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
President Trump Plans Payroll Tax Relief In Response To Coronavirus