Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the Senate Republican legislative response to COVID-19 “is ununified, unserious, unsatisfactory” and that Congress needs “to enter bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to develop a proposal that actually meets the moment and matches the scale of the crisis.”
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On the Senate floor Thursday, the New York senator said: “Our Republican colleagues have been so divided, so disorganized and so unprepared they had — that they have to struggle to draft even a partisan proposal within their own conference.”
Senate Republicans and the White House reached a tentative agreement for more testing funds in the next COVID-19 relief package, but deep disagreements over the scope of the $1 trillion in federal aid remain ahead of Thursday’s expected roll out.
Facing a GOP revolt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was preparing a “handful” of separate COVID-19 aid bills, according to a top lawmaker involved in the negotiations. McConnell is set to unveil the package on Thursday, according to a Republican unauthorized to discuss the private talks and granted anonymity.
A key holdup remains President Donald Trump’s push for a payroll tax cut, according to a Republican granted anonymity to discuss the private talks. Hardly any GOP senators support the idea. Instead, McConnell and some Republicans prefer another round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans.
The rest of the legislation is taking shape even as key Senate Republicans are rejecting the overall rescue, which is almost certain to grow. There will be no new money for cash-strapped states and cities, which are clamoring for funds, but they will be provided with additional flexibility to tap existing aid funds.
Republicans propose giving $105 billion to help schools reopen and $15 billion for child care centers to create safe environments for youngsters during the pandemic.
The centerpiece of the GOP effort remains McConnell’s liability shield to protect businesses, schools and others from COVID-related lawsuits. The bills will also include tax breaks for businesses to hire and retain workers, and to help shops and workplaces retool with new safety protocols.
“Seriously, as COVID continues to surge throughout our country and unemployment numbers rose again for the first time in weeks. Leader McConnell has made corporate immunity the centerpiece of this Republican response,” Schumer said.
Iowa Senator Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Finance Committee Chairman on the Senate floor said: I call on my colleagues to once again work together and not let partisan politics or gamesmanship get in the way of delivering for the American people.”