U.S. Republicans and Democrats faced difficult discussions on Tuesday over how best to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after Republicans unveiled a relief proposal days before millions of Americans lost their money. federal unemployment benefits.
Senate Republicans on Monday announced a trillion-dollar coronavirus assistance package worked out with the White House, which would reduce the current expanded unemployment benefit by $ 600 per week in addition to state unemployment, which expires Friday, at $ 200.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell framed the proposal as a “tailored and targeted” plan to reopen schools and businesses, while protecting businesses from lawsuits.
The plan drew immediate opposition from Democrats and Republicans. Democrats decried it as too limited and too late, compared to their $ 3 trillion proposal that was passed by the House of Representatives in May.
Some Republicans said it was too expensive.
The Republican proposal would give many Americans direct payments of $ 1,200 each, common ground with the Democrats.
It would also be providing billions in loans to small businesses and helping schools reopen.
There is broad agreement between the two political parties that more money is needed for virus testing, to help schools prepare to start their new year and to consolidate small businesses, but they are very far apart on the details.
Republicans are asking for $ 16 billion for virus testing, but Democrats want $ 75 billion.
For the reopening of schools, the Democrats want four times the $ 105 billion proposed by the Republicans.
Democrats also want to extend a federal moratorium on evictions of millions of rental housing units that expire on Friday, but Republicans remain silent on evictions.
The federal supplementary unemployment benefit has been a financial lifeline for laid-off workers and a key support for consumer spending. Democrats were quick to denounce the cuts as draconian as millions of Americans cannot return to closed workplaces.
Many Republicans insist that high unemployment benefits encourage Americans to stay home rather than return to work. Their proposal would put in place the additional weekly payment of $ 200 until states create a system to provide a 70 percent wage replacement to laid-off workers.
Democrats said the $ 200 suggestion was insufficient and would hurt the economy, and scoffed at suggestions that people would rather stay at home.
“People want to work, Republican friends. They just don’t have a job to do it. We are not going to let them starve while this is happening, ”Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Senate speech criticizing Republicans.
” Let’s do something. America desperately needs our help, ”he said.
Schumer and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are due to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later Tuesday, after a Monday night sitting.
McConnell said no bill would go to the vote without liability protection, which he said is not just for businesses.
The bill also includes a provision that would restore hundreds of millions of dollars in US defense spending that President Donald Trump’s administration had embezzled in order to pay for a wall along the US border with Mexico, according to the Washington newspaper. Post.
The partisan dispute comes as coronavirus cases in the United States topped 4.3 million, with nearly 150,000 people killed nationwide and tens of millions out of work.
The Democratic-led House passed its $ 3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, known as the “HEROES Act,” in May, but the Republican-led Senate refused to consider it.
McConnell acknowledged that the Republican “HEALS Act” was only a starting point for negotiations that would need bipartisan support to become law.
In his opening Senate address Tuesday, McConnell accused Democrats of risking the well-being of Americans amid the health and economic crisis by playing politics.
“The HEALS Act is full of provisions that I would frankly challenge my fellow Democrats to say they oppose,” said McConnell.