Five things senators want to attach to the coronavirus stimulus package

Senators were filing amendments over the weekend with their own ideas as leadership negotiations continue

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., wants to make it easier to claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., wants to make it easier to claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 23, 2020 at 11:37am

Leadership-level negotiations are still ongoing about a coronavirus stimulus package totaling $1.8 trillion or more, but senators have plenty of ideas of their own.

Over the weekend, senators filed a number of health care and tax policy amendments to the initial base text of the “phase three” stimulus bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as to an unrelated House-passed bill that the Kentucky Republican intends to use as the legislative vehicle to carry any eventual deal.

[No deal yet on stimulus as stock market teeters on the edge]

Here are a handful of some of the most significant proposals, some of which may ultimately be incorporated in the final language:

  1. Promoting charitable deductions: A bipartisan group of senators led by Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma is reviving a proposal to create an “above the line” deduction for contributions to charity. The expanded standard deductions in the most recent tax code overhaul law has led to fewer taxpayers needing to itemize deductions.
  2. Allergy testing: Kansas Republican Jerry Moran has filed an amendment seeking to provide specific coverage for allergy diagnostic testing services under Medicare and Medicaid. Some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 overlap with allergies.
  3. Bond buying by the Federal Reserve: A bipartisan amendment led by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez would grant the Federal Reserve authority, “in unusual and exigent circumstances” to buy and sell investment grade corporate bonds and those issued by entities like state, county and municipal governments. Under the amendment, none of those bonds would have a maturity of shorter than six months.
  4. Payroll tax suspension: Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are seeking a broad payroll tax holiday, having filed an amendment setting the tax rate to zero-percent for the year. The senators, both of whom are up for reelection this year, provide language that would transfer from the general fund to Social Security the money needed to make up for the loss of payroll tax revenue.
  5. Savings bonds: Louisiana Republican John Kennedy is seeking to use the legislation to continue his effort to distribute unclaimed U.S. savings bonds. His amendment would direct the Treasury Department to provide information to states to assist in locating the owners of unclaimed matured bonds for redemption.