With the clock counting down to Aug. 7, the last day Congress will be in session before entering another recess, the pressure is mounting for the GOP to strike a deal with Democrats regarding the next stimulus package. On Monday, Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, revealed their answer to the crisis, the HEALS Act, though it is already facing strong critiques from both sides of the aisle.
After the package was revealed earlier this week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to officially begin negotiations. Although those discussions reportedly led nowhere, a number of GOP senators are acknowledging that they need to come to an agreement with Democrats sooner rather than later, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida stating that "the goal is to get it done quickly," according to The Hill.
The pressure to strike a deal does not simply boil down to the approaching recess date, but also to the upcoming expiration date of a number of provisions made possible under the CARES Act, which had been signed by President Donald Trump on March 27. GOP Senators cite the expiration of the $600-a-week federal unemployment enhancement on July 31, as well as the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions, the recent wave of new coronavirus infections across the nation, the upcoming start of the school year, and a predicted wave of potential small-business closures as reasons to act quickly.
Acknowledging that "it takes time to deploy money for the testing," Rubio said that passing the next stimulus package "has to be timely" and that "everyone here should feel pressure because this is a rolling economic emergency we're facing. Every day that goes by with headlines about how far apart we are injects negativity that has an economic consequence." Meanwhile, another GOP senator who requested anonymity said, "the challenges people are facing are now and it's important that we do our efforts quickly."
Multiple members of the GOP cited the July 31 expiration date to enhanced unemployment benefits, something that has long been a sticking point for both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Thom Tillis expressed hope to "get something fairly soon so we have continuity of UI benefits in particular." Sen. Mitt Romney said that he's "like to see us move on unemployment as soon as possible," adding that he does not "want to have people lose their supplemental unemployment benefit."
As the bill enters the negotiations phase, McConnell has called on lawmakers to focus on the key issues relating to the pandemic and economic crisis. He told reporters that he is "want to have people lose their supplemental unemployment benefit" and that "when we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID-related measures are out."
The HEALS Act has until Aug. 7 to undergo negotiations and pass through both the House and the Senate. Should those things be accomplished in that time, it would then arrive at President Donald Trump's desk for approval.