The Republican-controlled Senate will introduce a slimmer coronavirus relief package next week as vulnerable GOP senators are begging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a symbolic gesture that will show the folks back home they’re not forgotten.
The so-called “skinny” bill will be rejected out of hand by Democrats, meaning it will probably not even get close to the 60 votes needed to shut off debate and force a floor vote. But the bill is not designed to pass; it’s meant to give cover to Republican incumbents and perhaps embarrass the Democrats for their obstructionist policies.
“We are very close to a bill that almost all GOP Senators can support,” one Senate GOP aide told ABC News, something Republican leaders hope will pressure Democrats to return to the negotiating table or face political backlash.
That’s not likely. Democrats decided before the $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit expired at the end of July that if the Republicans weren’t going to consider the $3 trillion pandemic relief package passed by the House in May, the American people would get nothing.
Republicans have not released a final price tag on the legislation, but calling it “skinny” is probably something of an inside joke.
- A $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits through the year’s end, down from the $600 per-week check distributed under previous stimulus legislation which ended in July; loosens requirements for small business loans to be forgiven;
- An additional $258 billion for small business Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to allow those who have already borrowed to do so again;
- $29 billion for Health and Human Services to assist in the development and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, and demands a plan for “how the vaccine distribution plan will focus efforts on high-risk, underserved and minority populations;
- $16 billion for testing and contact tracing; $105 billion for schools — with substantially more going to those schools that have in-person classes.
The big sticking point remains the trillion dollars Pelosi wants to bail out state and local governments. Republicans say that’s ludicrous and that they’re willing to spend another $150 billion on top of the $150 billion already allocated in the coronavirus relief bill passed in March.
But Democratic governors, whose overspending has created a fiscal crisis in many states, want the money to help cover up past mistakes. They want cash to help avoid the pension bomb coming their way, as well as cash for infrastructure projects and other pork-barrel spending.
Democrats took off after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a hearing yesterday, telling him to sit down, shut up, and sign the checks for their constituencies.
During a hearing with the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Tuesday, Mnuchin was taken to task by Democrats who urged him to return to the negotiating table.
“Stop bragging about what we’ve already done. We have people who are hurting,” admonished Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. “If the children don’t have a place to live and a bed to sleep in, school doesn’t even matter…Please, please get back to the negotiating table. Forget about all of this name, blame mess…Let’s stimulate this economy. This is our job.”
What’s funny about that is Mnuchin has been begging the Democrats to continue to negotiate but the Democrats are refusing to talk until Trump accepts a potential bill of at least $2.2 trillion. It’s a poison pill designed to keep negotiations from starting up again.
But it’s for the kids.