Top Democrats have rejected a GOP proposal to offset economic damages suffered during the monthslong CCP virus pandemic, setting up the prospect of long negotiations after various federal assistance programs are slated to expire.
Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to reports.
“We are somewhat frustrated. We had hoped there would be a bill, and instead in the Senate they’ve put little pieces here and there and everywhere. It’s pretty clear they don’t have 51 votes in the Senate for a proposal,” Schumer told reporters on Monday night after he met with the two White House officials.
Democrats have argued that the Senate Republican proposal falls short of providing funding to state and local governments, does not have safeguards for eviction notices, and does not invest in lower-income communities.
“We very much want to get something done for the needs of the people and the needs of the country,” he added.
Democrats in the House passed a sweeping, $3 trillion measure called the HEROES Act, which prompted criticism from Republicans and President Donald Trump as having too many provisions. Trump has said the bill is “dead on arrival” because it contains numerous legislative programs that are not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the bill presented on Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested cutting down the $600-per-week expanded unemployment insurance to $200 per week before switching to replace 70 percent of wages starting in October. The 70 percent plan was previously proposed by Mnuchin, who told reporters that “we’re not going to pay people more money to stay at home than work.”
“This legislation serves as a starting point for bipartisan negotiations,” Grassley said. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to not let partisan differences derail progress.”
House Democrats want to extend the $600 payments until January 2021 under the HEROES Act.
Democrats on Monday criticized the GOP’s unemployment proposal.
“The $600 dollar enhanced unemployment benefit has been a lifeline. It has allowed families to keep a roof over their heads, feed their children, and pay their bills,” Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) wrote on Twitter. “Slashing this benefit by two-thirds unfairly punishes Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
“They have something in there like … no money for food stamps or nutrition assistance,” Pelosi also told reporters on Monday, adding that “right now we’re at a time when children are food insecure in our country. People are hungry who never thought they’d go to a food bank.”
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the GOP bill will be called the HEALS Act, which stands for health, economic, assistance, liability protection, and schools. The details of the plan, according to the Kentucky Republican’s remarks on the Senate floor, include $1,200 direct payments similar to the CARES Act, a sequel to the Payment Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses, more funding for schools, and a liability shield for hospitals, businesses, and other entities. Treatment, testing, and vaccines funding will also be included.
McConnell also criticized the provisions in the HEROES Act, accusing Democrats of attempting to push a “socialist manifesto” onto the country in times of crisis.