Democrat leadership, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), brought momentum on the Republicans’ proposed coronavirus relief package, unveiled Monday, to a screeching halt Tuesday morning, refusing to cooperate or compromise on the bill unless it restores a full $600-per-week supplement unemployment benefit to out-of-work Americans.
Republicans have resisted extending the $600-per-week benefit over concerns that the federal supplement is encouraging unemployed individuals to remain unemployed, even as the economy slowly reopens to activity. Instead, the GOP has proposed rolling back the supplement to $200 per week until the next expiration date, sometime in the early fall.
CNBC reports that negotiations on the package began Monday night, and while the White House team — Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — were left hopeful by initial discussions, Democrats took to the airwaves after the meeting to express their concerns with the bill.
“Unfortunately, we’re pretty far apart right now, although I’m optimistic we could have a good solution at the end,” Schumer said.
“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 added. “We hope they can get their act together. We very much want to get something done for the needs of the people and the needs of the country.”
Pelosi, for her part, cited reports that the bill allows business owners to take more in select business expenses, including client entertainment, as a tax credit.
“They have something in there like a tax credit for expensive dinners and lunches but no money for food stamps or nutrition assistance,” Pelosi told reporters. “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.”
“If they’re not even getting to the fundamentals of food and rent and economic survival, they’re not really ready to have a serious negotiation,” she added.
Pelosi passed her own version of a fourth coronavirus stimulus package last month, the HEROES Act, which, in addition to providing an extension for food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides billions for bailing out the United States Postal Service among other handouts. Pelosi’s bill is triple the cost of the Republicans’ legislation, at a stunning $3 trillion.
Regardless of the current disagreements, both sides predict that they will have to come to the bargaining table to pass some sort of coronavirus stimulus package before Congress goes on recess at the end of August — and before the November elections.
“Both sides at the negotiating table realize this bill may be the last major piece of coronavirus relief legislation to pass Congress before the elections, meaning it could play a key role in whether Trump wins reelection or whether Democrats can capture the Senate majority,” the Hill notes.
Negotiations are scheduled to restart on Tuesday afternoon.
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