Trump wants payroll tax relief to calm virus-spooked markets

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The Capitol Hill office door of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has a sign that reads, "This office is closed until futher notice," shown Monday, March 9, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Gosar said they're isolating themselves after determining they had contact with a person at a Maryland political conference who got COVID-19. (AP Photo/Padmananda Rama)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump said Monday his administration will ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief and other quick measures as a public health and economic maelstrom brought on by the coronavirus drew closer to him personally.

Intending to calm the fears of financial markets over the impact of the epidemic, Trump told reporters he is seeking “very substantial relief" to the payroll tax. Trump also said he was seeking help for hourly-wage workers to ensure they’re “not going to miss a paycheck” and “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault."

He stepped forward with the contours of an initiative after markets dropped sharply and as the outbreak spread. Several Trump confidants in Congress disclosed they were isolating themselves after potential exposure to the virus; one traveled with the president from Florida on Air Force One on Monday; another was his just-tapped new chief of staff.

Trump said he would hold a press conference Tuesday to outline the proposals, saying his administration and Congress would be "discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s big, that’s a big number. We’re also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they’re not going to ever miss a paycheck.”

As Trump grappled with an epidemic whose consequences he has repeatedly played down, the White House asserted it was conducting “business as usual.” But the day's business was anything but normal. Lawmakers pressed for details on how the Capitol could be made secure, handshakes on the Hill were discouraged and a Pentagon meeting was broken into sub-groups to minimize the number of people in the same room.

The president himself dove into handshakes with supporters earlier in the day, when arriving to headline a fundraiser in Longwood, Florida, that raised approximately $4 million for his reelection campaign and the Republican Party.

On his flight back to Washington he was accompanied by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who later went into a voluntary quarantine. He was one of several GOP lawmakers who were exposed to a person at last month's Conservative Political Action Conference who tested positive for the virus. His office said he was “mid-flight” on Air Force One when CPAC informed his staff that he had been in contact with the attendee who had the virus.

Once the plane landed, Gaetz was immediately tested.