Democratic leaders scoff at emerging GOP coronavirus aid plan, promise it won't pass
WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders on Thursday panned the emerging Republican package for coronavirus relief, calling it an "un-serious" proposal that won't pass Congress.
"What we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus, and in order to open our schools and open our economy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Thursday. "We have to act. And what they're proposing falls far short."
Senate Republicans reached a tentative agreement with the White House on Wednesday for a proposal expected to cost $1 trillion that will include $105 billion for schools, $16 billion for testing and a new round of direct payments to individuals.
Millions of Americans are set to see their unemployment benefits decrease if Congress can't find a way to extend the boosted payments by the end of the week.
Trump appeared to concede on Thursday that he won't get one of his top priorities, a reduction in the payroll tax, which had lacked the needed support even in his own party.
Senate leadership had previously acknowledged that their proposal is a starting point for talks with Democrats. There have been few bipartisan talks so far.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the Republican plan "a partisan bill that will never become law just so they can muster up the courage to negotiate."
"It appears the Republican legislative response to COVID is un-unified, un-serious, unsatisfactory. The Republican disarray and dithering has seriously, potentially deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans," said Schumer, whose party has filibuster power to block legislation in the Senate.
The Republican legislation hasn't been made public yet. GOP leaders are still working to resolve party divisions that have prevented them from coming up with a position to begin negotiations with Democrats. Coronavirus cases in the United States have topped 4 million, according to the latest NBC News count.
The Democratic-led House passed a broader $3.4 trillion bill in May to address the pandemic.
Schumer slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for insisting on liability protections for businesses as well as hospitals, schools and other entities as they re-open.
"Seriously? Leader McConnell has made corporate immunity the centerpiece of the Republican response?" Schumer said. "Once again the Republican Senate is far more comfortable providing relief to big corporations than relief to workers and families."
Schumer said the next package must address unemployment benefits, food assistance, rental assistance, hazard pay to essential workers, bolstering hard-hit communities and ensuring a secure election this fall.