Unlike the CARES Act, which passed Congress in March with bipartisan support to deliver $2 trillion in economic relief to the country, this time Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on what to name the new COVID-19 stimulus plan.
In May, House Democrats passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions or HEROES Act, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called an unprecedented response to what’s needed to help Americans deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout.
On Monday (July 27), Senate Republicans unveiled the $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection and Schools or HEALS Act, their fresh round of pandemic relief.
“For one thing, Republicans are not near as good at naming bills as the Democrats,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told Fox News. “Democrats put names on the complete opposite of what they do.”
Liability protections for businesses are a key provision of the GOP plan, Gohmert said. “All of us on the Republican side have known we have got to protect nonprofits, businesses, employers that are wanting to open up, but you got trial lawyers ready to slap them with lawsuits over COVID and they need that protection,” Gohmert told Fox.
He said the HEALS Act also includes a second round of stimulus checks at the same $1,200 amount as in the CARES Act. But under the GOP proposal, households would receive $500 per dependent, while Democrats passed $1,200 per dependent for up to three dependents.
“Democrats were intentional when we added a full $1,200 payment for dependents in the HEROES Act,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) in a statement provided to The Hill. “That’s what the American people need right now. Parents are facing so much uncertainty as we look to the start of the next school year, and $500 per dependent simply isn’t enough.”
There is agreement on at least one thing. Under both parties’ proposals, individuals making up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 would be eligible for the full amount.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) told CNN on Tuesday (July 28) that Democrats are willing to agree to a new stimulus package that does not include an extension of an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that expires Friday (July 31).
“To say that $600 or nothing, no, that’s not where we are,” Hoyer told CNN. “We’re prepared to discuss this. But we’re also not prepared, however, to let down the American people, to let down the states, the cities, the local governments who hire people, who are meeting this pandemic’s crisis, including health personnel.”
Democrats have proposed extending the $600 federal unemployment benefit through January, while Republicans favor $200 a week for two months, then transitioning to 70 percent of prior earnings.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) accused Republicans of “dithering” and “disunity.”
“Weeks of infighting among Senate Republicans and the White House caused unnecessary and harmful delays,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “They can’t get 51 votes for anything that’s comprehensive, that deals with the problems — the very real problems — that the American people face.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called on Democrats to begin negotiations.
“We can’t go back to April, and until we have a vaccine, we can’t go back to normal either,” he said on the Senate floor. “What the American people need is a smart, safe and sustainable middle ground, and they need Congress’ help to construct it. That’s exactly what our measured proposal would do.”