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President Trump Meets With GOP Senators To Discuss Coronavirus Economic Response


President Trump was on Capitol Hill today to talk with Republican senators about possible economic measures that will help boost markets that have been battered by the coronavirus.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to protect our shipping industry, our cruise industry - cruise ships. We want to protect our airline industry - very important. But everybody has to be vigilant and has to be careful.

CHANG: To tell us about what the president is proposing and how lawmakers are responding, we're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hey, Claudia.


CHANG: So what did the president want from this meeting?

GRISALES: So the president was making his case before Republicans for a major economic stimulus package. Several details would go into this. Among one of the major highlights was his hope to introduce a payroll tax cut that employers could take advantage of perhaps later this year. And he was hoping to sell these members on it. He told reporters after the lunch that it was a great meeting, that Republicans showed great unity. And he expressed hope that this stimulus package could turn around these dramatic impacts that we've seen on the economy as this illness spreads.

But it's unclear how much of the president's pitch will make it into legislation here. For example, the payroll tax cut could play out to be an uphill battle because Democrats are not on board now, and even some Republicans aren't sold on the idea quite yet.

CHANG: Well, what are Republican senators saying about these proposals?

GRISALES: When they left the meeting today, they were expressing mostly unity with the president in the hopes that they could develop this plan in the coming week or so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said talks would continue among the members to develop this plan that could meet the president's demands. He also said that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss measures to bolster the economy. Let's take a listen.


MITCH MCCONNELL: The speaker is obviously the most prominent Democrat here on Capitol Hill, and anything to get on the president's desk has to be agreed to between the administration and the speaker of the House.

GRISALES: So McConnell went on to point to a package passed last week - this roughly $8 billion deal that was signed into law by the president to help battle the impacts from the coronavirus illness - that went more into boosting testing and addressing research and vaccines. And so he pointed to that deal saying that was a bipartisan, bicameral agreement, meaning it came together between both chambers. And he says they can do it again, and that's what he's hoping will happen.

CHANG: Now, there were no Democrats at this meeting with President Trump. So what have you been hearing so far from Democrats about these proposals?

GRISALES: So Democrats are proceeding with their own plan with their own focus on priorities such as paid sick leave, covering food security for children who could lose it if a school is closed down and an extension of unemployment insurance. But it's clear that there's a way to go before these Democrats can strike a deal with Republicans.

Just this morning, Trump lashed out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter, complaining that the House may not be able to put legislation on the House floor this week. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York responded to Trump's complaint towards Pelosi passing this legislation, and he noted Trump was playing golf this weekend. Let's take a listen.


HAKEEM JEFFRIES: So we're not going to be lectured by Donald Trump about leadership when he's failed to show a scintilla of it in the midst of this whole crisis.

GRISALES: So it's clear there is a ways to go, but it's possible they could reach a deal in the days or weeks to come.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.