“I don’t understand how a senator can go home and not have delivered supercharged unemployment along the lines we’re talking about,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who introduced legislation on Wednesday that would allow expanded unemployment benefits to continue as long as the economy was weak.
But as is their tendency just before funding and programs are set to expire, several lawmakers expressed optimism that Senate Republicans could rapidly reconcile their divisions and deficit fears with the $3 trillion measure that House Democrats approved in May.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters on Tuesday that the focus of any legislation taken up in the Senate would be “kids, jobs and health care,” as well as liability protections for hospitals, doctors, nurses, businesses, colleges and universities.
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said he had asked lawmakers and staff on the committee responsible for overseeing health, education and labor spending to begin compiling a package, while Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said he had been meeting with Mr. McConnell to prepare a legislative measure by the end of the month.
“It’s just a matter of figuring out kind of what those levers and dials are on the various programs where we need to do more,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters. “We, Senate Republicans, are doing this assessment, determining where we think the greatest needs are going to be, watching what’s happening in the economy as it opens up.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is also homing in on a deal to revamp the government’s efforts to help small businesses, likely including at least a partial shift from offering what were essentially grants to companies that kept workers on their payrolls to offering low- or no-interest, long-term loans.
A coalition of industry associations, led by the Economic Innovation Group, an entrepreneurship-focused think tank, called on lawmakers this week to give small businesses sufficient aid “to survive a prolonged period of lower consumer demand, ongoing operational disruption, and continued uncertainty until the availability of a vaccine and effective therapeutic treatment eliminate Covid-19 as a severe public health concern” — including simple, zero-interest loans.