As lawmakers in the Senate struggled Monday to finalize the $2 trillion COVID-19 economic stimulus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her own relief plan.
Pelosi said in a March 23 statement that the Senate Republican relief plan “put corporations first, not workers and families,” and announced that her bill, called Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, would be unveiled later in the day.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and several other Republicans angrily accused Democrats of trying to take advantage of the CCP virus crisis to advance their political agenda with unrelated provisions, including ones around renewable energy and vote by mail.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan and causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement of the outbreak fueled its spread throughout China and across the world.
Insisting that COVID-19 relief funds “must protect […] workers’ wages and benefits—not CEO pay, stock buybacks or layoffs,” Pelosi said the House Democrat bill would strengthen unemployment insurance and occupational safety protections, and offer free treatment for COVID-19 patients.
She characterized her bill as one that “takes responsibility for the health, wages, and well-being of America’s workers.”
‘Leftwing Episode of Supermarket Sweep’
McConnell defended the GOP proposal as a “compromise package” and alleged the Democrats were trying to pad the relief package with what he called a “Democratic wish list” and a “leftwing episode of Supermarket Sweep,” ABC reports.
McConnell cited examples like imposing new emission standards for airlines and handing out tax credits for solar energy.
Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, shared what she indicated were fragments of Pelosi’s bill. One part talks about the value of collective bargaining for federal employees, while another requires airlines to fully offset their carbon emissions.
“You know what families who can’t work and are struggling to make rent really care about? Being able to look up greenhouse gas emissions from the flights they can’t afford to book,” Bovard needled in a tweet that cited Section 706 of the bill, about “improving consumer information regarding release of greenhouse gases from flights.”
McConnell said the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans, would hold another procedural vote on the package after it fell short on Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested the vote would again fall short unless the measure included more guardrails to avoid misuse of the $500 billion earmarked to help struggling industries.
Schumer said the bill has moved in favor of the Democrats with regard to unemployment insurance, ABC reports, but complained that it “still includes something most Americans don’t want to see: large corporate bailouts with almost no strings attached.”
McConnell accused Democrats of “filibustering the bipartisan bill they helped write.”
“This is the moment to debate new regulations that have nothing whatsoever to do whatsoever with this crisis? That’s what they’re up to over there,” McConnell said, ABC reports. “Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal.”
“They ought to be embarrassed,” he said.
“I’ve never been more frustrated with my Democrat colleagues,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D). “Not only are they blocking vital relief, walking back on good-faith bipartisan negotiations, and stalling Senate action—they’re intentionally misleading the American people. Let’s get it straight.”
Later on Monday, the Senate didn’t advance the relief package for the second time in two days.
Senators voted 49-46 and fell short of the three-fifths support that is necessary to debate the plan. The negotiations will continue between Democrats and Republicans, said Schumer.
Earlier, both sides said they were close to an agreement on the massive bill, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said carried a $2 trillion price tag.
“I think we’re very close. We need to get this deal done today,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Monday, adding that while existing funds had already been deployed to soften the blow of the virus, “we need Congress to approve additional funds today.”
As top administration officials and congressional leaders struggled Monday to finalize the economic rescue package, the virus crisis deepened.
“I didn’t expect to be starting off my week with such a dire message for America,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on CBS This Morning, as he warned the numbers will get worse this week. “Things are going to get worse before they get better. We really need everyone to understand this … and lean into what they can do to flatten the curve.”
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, as of Monday afternoon, there were 41,511 confirmed COVID-19 infections in the United States and 499 deaths.
Reuters contributed to this report.