Stimulus Check Possible, but Would Be Part of 'Different Legislation' Than Current Relief Bill: GOP Senator

Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said he remains optimistic both chambers of Congress can pass a $900 billion bipartisan stimulus relief package this week. However, he noted that a federal check to struggling Americans will not be included in the current bill.

Cassidy told Fox News Sunday the bipartisan stimulus relief plan being hashed out by both Republicans and Democrats will not have any direct payments to Americans—a concession he said was necessary to appease cost-cutting conservative in the House and Senate. The GOP lawmaker is one of 10 senators crafting the package which he said is the "only" relief bill that can even make it to President Donald Trump's desk.

Cassidy pushed back on calling it a "stimulus bill," instead labeling it a "relief bill" in which there will be no direct account deposits similar to the $1,200 feature of March's CARES Act.

"There may be a stimulus check, but that would be part of a different piece of legislation," he said in his Fox News Sunday interview. He's working alongside Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, to push a second sweeping coronavirus pandemic relief package through Congress as soon as possible.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing pressure to work with Democrats after he outright rejected the current $908 billion bipartisan stimulus proposal, which holds backing from Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A U.S. Labor Department report released Friday found employers added just 245,000 jobs last month, indicating a slow-down in the economic recovery.

In addition to Republican opposition to direct payments, Cassidy said "one of the sticking points" in the negotiations is over liability protections. Small businesses who want to remain open say they have concerns about being targeted by lawsuits from customers who contract COVID-19 in their establishments.

"There has to be some liability protection," Cassidy said, noting the government gave mixed messages about employees wearing protective masks in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

Cassidy earlier told CNN on Friday: "Neither [party] has received everything, but both received much of what we think the American people need. If we can keep that balance, we'll get it through. The only thing that can pass is bipartisan. This is bipartisan."

The current framework for the proposed $900 billion stimulus relief package includes $300-per-week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits and a continuance of a pause in student loan payments. A national eviction moratorium and additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program to eligible small businesses are also included. An estimated $160 billion of the allocated funding in the bill would go to state and local governments to use at their discretion, along with $82 billion for education. And another $45 billion would be used for transportation projects across the U.S., and $288 billion is set aside for small business cash injections.

"This is the only relief bill that has a shot at passing ... any other partisan bill is just sending a message," Cassidy told CNN, adding he and the other bipartisan lawmakers will produce a "detailed plan" that "moves beyond the framework" in the coming week.

"The pain of the American people is driving this, and I'm optimistic that both of those leaders will come on board," he said, expressing more optimism McConnell and Trump will both support the final proposal.

Also speaking with ABC News Friday, Cassidy said with absolute certainty, "the president will sign" the bipartisan bill they produce in the coming days.

Newsweek reached out to Cassidy's office for additional remarks Sunday morning.

bill cassidy bipartisan stimulus package
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) stand alongside a bipartisan group of Democrat and Republican members of Congress as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill on December 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. The roughly $908 billion proposal includes $288 billion in small business aid such as Paycheck Protection Program loans, $160 billion in state and local government relief and $180 billion to fund a $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit through March, according to a draft framework. TASOS KATOPODIS / Stringer/Getty Images