U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a vote for Wednesday on a $500 billion federal COVID-19 relief package that falls well short of the $2.2 trillion sought by Congressional Democrats and $1.8 trillion President Donald Trump is calling for, McConnell’s office announced Saturday (Oct. 18).
McConnell blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Congressional Democrats for the lack of an agreement to extend benefits, many of which expired Aug. 31.
“Speaker Pelosi has wasted months playing political games with the health and financial security of American families,” he stated in the announcement. “Republicans have tried numerous times to secure bipartisan agreement where possible and get aid out the door while these endless talks continue. But Speaker Pelosi keeps saying she feels ‘nothing’ is better than ‘something’ and clinging to far-left demands that are designed to kill any hope of a deal.
“If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it. But Americans need help now.”
The Republican Senate measure will include, McConnell’s release stated: “more federally-expanded unemployment benefits for laid-off Americans; an entire second round of the Paycheck Protection Program to save workers’ jobs at the hardest-hit small businesses; $100 billion-plus to make schools safe for kids; more testing; more tracing; more funding for Operation Warp Speed to produce a vaccine; more funding to distribute that vaccine across the country.”
The Payroll Protection Program is the federal COVID-19 relief program that provides loans to small businesses and converts those loans into grants if the businesses meet certain employee-retention guidelines. McConnell said last week that it would be at the center of a Senate relief package and that his chamber would approve one in October.
McConnell also stated in yesterday’s announcement: “If Democrats do not obstruct this legislation, we will have time to pass it before we turn to Judge (Amy Coney) Barrett’s nomination (to the U.S. Supreme Court) immediately after it comes out of committee. It is long past time for the two parties to agree where we can and get more money out the door.”
In announcing his call for a plan advisors separately put at $1.8 billion, Trump in an Oct. 9 Tweet told lawmakers to “go big” in approving a measure.
Pelosi has been critical of the White House and Republican Senate proposals and continued to hit them today in a letter to Democratic colleagues that she also posted on her website.
Pelosi accused Republicans of promoting funding plans that are inadequate to attack COVID-19, endanger children and health care workers, undermine the Census and deprive state and local governments of needed aid. Weekend negotiations with White House officials produced “some encouraging news,” but disagreements remain. She said she nevertheless is “optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election.”
A number of economic experts, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell, have warned that without more stimulus spending, the companies risks deep, prolonged economic suffering.