The Trump administration says it's open to signing a stimulus package that doesn't include a McConnell-backed liability shield for businesses

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellEvan Vucci/AP Images
  • The Trump administration says it's open to striking a stimulus deal that doesn't include a liability shield for businesses, long a priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • "This president is very keenly focused on unemployment insurance," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Friday.
  • The comments appear to indicate the GOP and the White House are still split on which measures to prioritize for the next economic relief package.
  • Republicans are under mounting pressure to prevent a lapse in $600 federal unemployment benefits that formally expire Friday.

The Trump administration said on Friday that it's willing to negotiate a spending package with Democrats without a liability shield for businesses, which has been championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

At a press briefing on Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked whether the administration would press to include those business protections in the next stimulus bill alongside McConnell.

"That's a question for Mitch McConnell... that's his priority," she said. "This president is very keenly focused on unemployment insurance."Advertisement

McEnany's comments appear to indicate that the White House and Senate Republicans are still not on the same page on which proposals to pursue in another stimulus package — four days into contentious negotiations with Democrats.

Read more: Fights over liability protections, unemployment benefits, and hazard pay are keeping Democrats and Republicans from reaching a deal on the next coronavirus stimulus

Up to now, McConnell has repeatedly pressed for coronavirus-related lawsuit protections for employers, as well as hospitals, schools and nonprofit organizations. He said an economic relief package must include it or else businesses could face an "epidemic of lawsuits."
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"We're not negotiating with Democrats over that," McConnell told CNBC on Tuesday.

That's in stark contrast to Democrats, who are seeking to strengthen worker protections. They argue implementing a shield could endanger employees and reduce pressure on businesses to make their workplaces safer during the pandemic. The GOP faces mounting pressure to prevent a lapse in $600-per-week enhanced unemployment benefits which formally expire on Friday. The Trump administration says it could support a slimmed-down bill that extends an eviction moratorium and a federal supplement to state unemployment checks without specifying an amount.Advertisement

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But Democrats rejected that as woefully inadequate to confront the pandemic, and say those steps should be part of a larger relief bill.

Around 30 million jobless Americans are set to receive only their state benefits in the coming days. Those amounts vary greatly from one state to another without the beefed-up payments.Advertisement

However, unemployed people face significant income drops during a volatile period with scarce jobs available because of the pandemic.

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