As Americans brace ourselves for the impending effects of coronavirus preparations, one thing remains business as usual: a stalemate between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Democrats introduced emergency measures on Wednesday.
BREAKING: Here is the Senate Democrats’ proposal for targeted new economic and community relief to help states with coronavirus outbreaks: pic.twitter.com/iTJGZm33lM
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 11, 2020
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in the House, includes:
- Economic measures for individuals: emergency unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and loan payment relief.
- Economic measures for small businesses: loan payment relief and disaster-relief grants
- Emergency food and housing allowances
- Funding to keep schools safe and prepared.
- Free testing for coronavirus
The multi-billion-dollar emergency proposal was initially expected to garner at least some bipartisan support. However, despite the growing concerns over coronavirus, the bill remained at a partisan standstill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continued her attempts to persuade the Trump administration to support the bill, and promised to deliver it to the Senate floor Thursday.
“We’re bringing the bill to the floor,” Pelosi told reporters, declining to comment on whether the White House had expressed an opinion on the Democratic measure. She called the question “premature” but added that she thought the White House had gotten ample time to consider the proposals in the package.
Congressional Republicans have opposed the bill in its current state, with top officials telling press, “We continue to want to work with the Speaker, but if she’s choosing to pass a partisan bill then everyone needs to face that fact and what that means.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the first draft of the bill “off-base,” but applaudedTrump administration’s bipartisan negotiations with Pelosi.
Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi’s first draft from late last night was off-base. It does not focus immediate relief on affected Americans. It proposes new bureaucracy that would only delay assistance. It wanders into policy areas that are not related to the pressing issues at hand.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 12, 2020
I applaud Sec. Mnuchin and the Administration for engaging in bipartisan talks with Speaker Pelosi. Following the billions in health funding we approved last week, the Senate is ready and eager to consider bipartisan policies to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 12, 2020
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also opposed the bill in its current form.
NEWS — @GOPLeader KEVIN MCCARTHY told Republicans that he is opposed to the Democrats coronavirus bill, a blow to hopes for biparitsanship and perhaps a harbinger for the bill’s prospects in the GOP Senate.
The WH has made its preference clear, but this is a bad sign.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 12, 2020
Sen. Murray condemned Republicans for opposing the legislation at such a critical time, writing in an op-ed: “For years, Democrats have pushed for federal paid sick days legislation that would allow workers to gradually earn seven paid sick days—and for years, Republican leaders have said no.”
Despite the increasing spread of the coronavirus & urgent need for policies that protect workers and families, Senate Republicans blocked my bill to mandate emergency paid sick days during public health emergencies. But let me be clear: I’m not giving up. pic.twitter.com/o4eoG0uQHm
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) March 11, 2020
Other Democratic lawmakers said that is an urgent situation and that the phones in Republican offices need to ring off the hook with messages of “get [your] shit together.”
Republicans are refusing to pass a bill that has
– free coronavirus testing
– paid emergency medical leave
– extended unemployment insurance
– food assistance
– help for health care workers. Call their offices, tell them to get their shit together and do it. Thanks.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 12, 2020
President Donald Trump, for his part, may sign a disaster or emergency declaration on Thursday. As Law&Crime noted before, the emergency declaration would invoke the Stafford Act and mobilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
On Wednesday night, he banned travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days.
It seems the McConnell-led Senate is in no rush, however.
McConnell ally says Senate won't take up House #coronavirus bill until after recess. “The Senate will act when we come back and we have a clearer idea of what extra steps we need to take,” Sen. Lamar Alexander told reporters.
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) March 12, 2020
[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.