WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the GOP’s latest attempt at a new coronavirus aid package on Tuesday. What wasn’t included despite bipartisan support: a second round of stimulus checks for Americans.
Even though President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have expressed support, the direct payments weren’t included in a slimmed-down, $500 billion proposal. Democratic leadership isn’t happy with the overall package arguing it simply doesn’t do enough.
“Get real, Mitch McConnell,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said during a Bloomberg interview. “It’s only a ‘check the box’ so that some of his endangered Republican senators can go home and say, ‘Well, see, I tried.’ But it isn’t trying. It is not even an attempt to do the right thing.”
So why didn’t the checks make it into the proposal? Many Senate Republicans are resisting more spending. This scaled-back bill is roughly half the size of a measure McConnell unveiled earlier this summer.
McConnell’s move clears the way for a Thursday test vote in which Democrats were sure to block the legislation. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the bill “doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”
On Wednesday, Schumer told CNN he was hopeful Republicans would beef up their current bill.
“There’s a good chance they feel the pressure once they see the Democrats are not going to fold to this emaciated bill, which leaves so much out. The pressure will mount on them,” Schumer said.
This comes as President Trump continues to push for stimulus checks — even tossing out the idea of utilizing unused federal funds to pay for additional direct payments.
During a Friday news conference, Trump said Congress should redirect $300 billion in unused coronavirus pandemic relief funds for a second direct payment to Americans in need, according to the New York Post.
“We have $300 billion ready to go, all Congress has to do is say, ‘use it.’” said Trump.
Trump didn’t specify where the $300 billion figure comes from. The Post believes it involves unused business loan money included in the CARES Act passed back in March.
Vice President Mike Pence also voiced support for additional checks.
“Nobody wants to give direct payments to American families more than President Donald Trump. We sent those checks to American families, it helped people through this tough time,” Pence said in a Friday interview with CNBC.
McConnell’s bill would provide $105 billion to help schools reopen, enact a shield against lawsuits for businesses and others that are powering ahead to reopen, create a scaled-back $300-per-week supplemental jobless benefit, and write off $10 billion in earlier debt at the U.S. Postal Service. There’s $31 billion for a coronavirus vaccine, $16 billion for virus testing, and $15 billion to help child care providers reopen. There is additionally $20 billion for farmers.
The package will also include a school choice initiative sought by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and others that would provide a tax break, for two years, for people who donate to nonprofit organizations offering private school scholarships.
It would also provide for a $258 billion second round of paycheck protection subsidies.
But it won’t contain another those $1,200 direct payments and the new $300 weekly jobless benefit would expire just after Christmas, on Dec. 27. The GOP bill also lacks funding for election security that lawmakers from both parties have supported.
At least one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Tuesday he would oppose the bill, refusing new spending that piles on debt. It’s a sign of the troubles McConnell has faced in crafting a bill his own party would support.
Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to demand a package totaling $2.2 trillion, and while Trump’s negotiators have signaled a willingness to inch further in her direction, a significant gap remains.
Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month and remain off track, with the bipartisan unity that drove almost $3 trillion in COVID-19 rescue legislation into law this spring replaced by toxic partisanship and a return to Washington dysfunction.
Expectations in July and August that a fifth bipartisan pandemic response bill would eventually be birthed despite increased obstacles has been replaced by genuine pessimism. Recent COVID-related conversations among key players have led to nothing.
Democrats seem secure in their political position, with Trump and several Senate GOP incumbents lagging in the polls. Trump is seeking to sideline the pandemic as a campaign issue, and Republicans aren’t interested in a deal on Democratic terms — even as needs like school aid enjoy widespread support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.