KEY POINTS

  • Republicans roll out their new and reduced $500 billion coronavirus relief bill
  • Democrats call the bill “skinny” aid totally inadequate for saving the economy and Americans from the COVID-19 crisis
  • Democrats still pushing their $2.2 trillion HEROES Act as a compromise now appears unlikely

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., revealed the GOP’s new and drastically reduced coronavirus relief bill Tuesday, calling the $500 billion proposal to replace its stalled $1.3 trillion HEALS Act a “targeted proposal.” Democrats had another word for it – “skinny.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lampooned as “emaciated” the Republican Party’s latest aid bill offering less than half its previous proposal in assistance to individuals and firms hurting from the COVID-19 slowdown. Among the Democrats’ primary complaints was the absence second round of stimulus checks.

“The crisis and the pain of the American people in the pandemic get greater and greater, and Republicans keep thinking smaller and smaller,” Schumer told CNN. “And the reason is very simple — there are 20 Republicans in the Senate who want no money, so McConnell had to, in a very cynical exercise, put together something that would check the box, but left out so much.”

The new GOP bill provides a $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit through the end of the year (down from $600 under the Democrats’ CARES Act) and new relief for small businesses. It also offers a second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.

The bill includes liability protections for businesses and healthcare facilities and more money for healthcare funding and schools. The proposal also provides two years of tax credits for parents to cover costs of private and home schooling. It also forgives a $10 billion loan to the U.S. Postal Service.

However, the $1,200 individual stimulus checks that seemed to be the only common ground in the partisan divide is not a part of the new GOP plan. McConnell said he hopes the Senate can vote on the bill within the week.

Democrats are incensed by the paltry amount of the GOP’s new proposal, which contrasts sharply with their $3.2 trillion HEROES Act. They have reduced this amount to $2.2 trillion in an effort to goad the GOP into a compromise, but the Republicans countered with the $500 billion “skinny” bill.

“Our bill meets the needs of the American people,” said Schumer. “Their bill meets the needs of a few ideologues who don’t want to vote for anything, but they’re feeling such pressure from the public, they have to come to the floor.”

He assailed the upcoming vote on the GOP bill as a “cynical act” because McConnell knows it won’t pass. In a separate letter, Schumer call their proposal “skinny” but it would be more appropriate to call it “emaciated.”

In a joint statement, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”

McConnell said the upcoming vote on the skinny bill is a choice to “do something” or “do nothing.” He also blasted Democratic leaders of not wanting any bipartisan relief to get to American families before the November election.

Negotiations over a fourth stimulus package broke down in August over the total cost of the relief package. In the meantime, the $600 weekly unemployment benefit has expired, along with other protections afforded Americans by the Democrat’s CARES Act that passed May 15.

Schumer (L) and Pelosi have dismissed Trump’s unilateral extension of a virus relief package Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN





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