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Trump and top Republicans scramble to contain economic impact of coronavirus

Trump administration's coronavirus response
Trump administration's coronavirus response 08:55

Washington — The federal government scrambled to minimize the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus as financial markets fell off a cliff on Monday, with President Trump convening his top economic advisers in Washington and the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee signaling a willingness to provide tax relief to soften the blow.

The president planned to meet with top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and others at the White House upon his return from Florida on Monday afternoon. The officials will present recommendations for temporary, targeted financial measures, according to a source familiar with the plans.

During a press conference at the White House on Monday night, Mr. Trump said administration officials will meet with congressional Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly wage workers. 

Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Grassley, the Finance Committee chairman, is considering "targeted tax relief measures," a committee spokesman said. The spokesman did not specify what kind of tax relief senators might be considering, or provide a timeline for when lawmakers might take up the matter.

"While we continue to assess the economic impacts, Chairman Grassley is exploring the possibility of targeted tax relief measures that could provide a timely and effective response to the coronavirus," said Michael Zona, the committee's communications director. "Several options within the committee's jurisdiction are being considered as we learn more about the effects on specific industries and the overall economy."

Democratic leaders have harshly criticized the administration's handling of the crisis and called on Republicans to expand paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and medical testing as the virus disrupts workplaces across the country. Congress passed a $8.3 billion emergency spending package to ramp up efforts to fight the virus, including funding to research a vaccine. The president signed the measure into law last week.

CBS News previously reported that the White House is considering tax relief measures, including deferrals for the airline, cruise and travel industries. Kudlow said Friday the administration is looking at "timely" and "targeted" financial aid for Americans hit hardest by the virus. 

"We want to have this targeted in a timely fashion for those areas that have been hit the worst," said Kudlow, who added that he doesn't like the word "bailout."

The stock market went into free fall Monday morning, with the Dow losing more than 7% upon the opening bell. 

A senior administration official confirms the president has invited Wall Street executives to the White House Wednesday to discuss the virus. 

Internally, the White House is making its own considerations about confronting the virus.

CBS News has confirmed that visitors to the White House must disclose on their security forms the countries they've visited in the last 30 days. And the White House is discouraging foreign officials from visiting and to instead hold meetings by phone and videoconference. 

Sara Cook, Arden Farhi and Kristin Brown contributed to this report. 

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