Senate GOP emergency relief plan leaves out direct aid to states, cities
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans unveiled their latest coronavirus relief proposal Tuesday but were met with swift objections from Democrats.
The GOP plan failed to include direct aid to cities and states, a priority for Democrats, or rental relief or nutrition assistance, and it appeared it wouldn't go far enough to resolve a months-long stalemate over providing additional emergency aid to Americans. The Senate plans a vote later this week.
The $500 billion GOP package includes enhanced unemployment benefits, another round of federal small business loans, and billions of dollars to help schools and universities reopen safely.
It would also boost COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, treatments and vaccine development; and help the U.S. Postal Service accommodate an expected surge of mail-in ballots this fall.
The package would also give families two years of tax credits for contributions to "scholarship granting organizations" — which could be used for private school tuition and homeschooling expenses. A Republican summary gave credit to Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas for insisting on including a version of school choice in the bill.
And the measure would provide legal protections as organizations reopen amid the pandemic — a must-do for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
It would be offset by claiming unspent and unallocated funds in earlier coronavirus relief packages.
"We want to agree where bipartisan agreement is possible, get more help out the door and then keep arguing over the rest later," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the bill "doesn't come close" to addressing the twin public health and economic crises facing the country and said it was designed to give the GOP political cover as they head into the fall elections.
"This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican senators by giving them a 'check the box' vote to maintain the appearance that they're not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn't want to spend a nickel to help people," they said in a joint statement.
McConnell responded on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon that Democrats won't negotiate in good faith and are holding out for a "Goldilocks" bill that meets all of their wishes.
"They've complained about every single thing we've put forward," he said. "But they've produced nothing of their own with any chance of becoming law."
The proposal would cost about half as much as a $1 trillion package Republicans introduced earlier this summer that went nowhere.
Democrats introduced their own $3 trillion package, which passed the U.S. House in May but met stiff resistance in the Senate. In negotiations, Democrats offered to lower their plan by roughly $2 trillion, but Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration didn't bite.
In their package, Democrats included nearly $1 trillion for city, state, local and tribal governments, which are facing massive revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic. They say the money is needed to keep firefighters, police officers, health workers, teachers and other essential workers on the payroll amid the pandemic.
Tuesday's GOP bill would:
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.