The Republican Senate introduced a $1 trillion coronavirus aid package yesterday that was immediately panned by leading Democrats in the House and Senate as a “half-hearted, half-baked legislative proposal,” and “too little, too late.”
The bill would offer liability protections for most companies as long as they follow the CDC guidelines for reopening. It would also give taxpayers another round of stimulus payments and reprise the program to offer forgivable loans to small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic.
Most controversially, Republicans have lowered the special unemployment benefit from $600 a week to $200 a week. That benefit will expire on Friday and no temporary extension appears possible. There’s also some extra cash in the bill to help schools reopen.
It’s being called the “HEALS Act”—the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act. The GOP must have labored long and hard to come up with that one.
Democrats can now sit back and wait for the pressure to become so overwhelming that Republicans will have to do something.
Democratic leaders immediately rejected the Republicans’ opening offer and demanded the GOP take up a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package called the HEROES Act that House Democrats passed in May. The measure is named after front-line workers who would receive “hazard pay” in the legislation.
“Republicans should scrap their approach,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. “They should use the HEROES Act — comprehensive, strong, and bold — for negotiations and start talking to Democrats in a serious way about the problems facing our nation. This is a serious, serious crisis.”
Indeed, Democrats are in the catbird seat on this one. They’ve already passed a $3 trillion campaign…er, coronavirus relief package in the House. They see no need to help Republicans out, especially when the GOP Senate may be hopelessly divided and unable to pass anything.
Republicans have also faced division within their own ranks as they have worked to put together a proposal, and some GOP senators are wary of spending more money on top of the trillions of coronavirus aid that lawmakers have already enacted.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on Monday that he expects “significant resistance” from Republicans to the GOP stimulus bill.
“There is significant resistance to yet another trillion dollars. The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington, the answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work. And as it stands now, I think it’s likely that you’ll see a number of Republicans in opposition to this bill and expressing serious concerns,” he said.
So McConnell is trapped between reluctant members of his own party and Democrats who smell blood in the water. It will not end well for him, or the GOP Senate, or Donald Trump, who is going to have to decide whether or not to veto the bill at the height of the campaign season.
The Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act is chock-full of every imaginable goody for every single one of their constituencies. It’s the most amazing effort to buy an election in history. It has absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic. It’s a political manifesto that will reward their friends and punish their enemies and give us a glimpse into their idea of a future America. Republicans can’t accept it without destroying the party.
As badly as this relief package may be needed — and there are some who say it’s not necessary — this isn’t the way to go about getting it. But Democrats know this is an election-winning issue for them and Republicans are eventually going to be forced to cave. We can expect the price tag of this relief bill to double before it reaches the president’s desk.
Will Trump veto it? It certainly is a possibility and Democrats should keep that in mind going forward.