The United States Senate finally introduced a new stimulus bill on Monday, but lawmakers both there and in the U.S. Congress are far from agreeing on it. Congressional representatives from around the U.S. have criticized the new HEALS Act, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wrote it. Some pundits are beginning to doubt whether the two houses will reach an agreement on a stimulus check bill at all.
The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act — or, HEALS Act — is a $1 trillion stimulus package intended to help the United States weather the coronavirus pandemic. It has less than half the budget of the CARES Act, which produced the first stimulus check, and one-third of the budget of the HEROES Act, which the Senate ignored after Congress passed it in May. While it does include another stimulus check, the HEALS Act makes controversial cuts to unemployment payments, funding for coronavirus testing and research and other areas that some Democrats see as vital.
The HEALS Act was written with input from the Trump administration — particularly U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. On Wednesday, Mnuchin admitted that lawmakers are "very far apart" from agreeing on a compromise. According to a report by CBS News, he spoke to journalists on the White House lawn about the division.
"As of now, we're very far apart. And because of that, the president and we have discussed a short-term extension to UI, and the evictions, so that we have some period to negotiate before this runs out," he said.
The divisions are over many of the things the HEALS Act left out — such as housing assistance, unemployment enhancement, testing funds — but also the things it includes — military funding, federal construction projects, business lunch deductions, etc. Democrats are calling McConnell out on every platform available, asking how he could have arrived at this arrangement of priorities.
Critics are going after McConnell in particular, with arguments that he has not approached this project in good faith at any step of the way. The Kentucky senator ignored the HEROES Act back in May as the economic recession worsened, and he did not reschedule the Senate's two-week recess in the first half of July. Only last week did he begin work on the HEALS Act, which he insisted on writing himself, leaving less than two weeks to negotiate before Congress was scheduled to leave on recess as well.
Congress may delay or cancel its recess, as it has done in the past, but the Senate has another recess scheduled a week later — this time lasting three weeks. If an agreement is not reached before both legislative bodies leave the capital, the American people will be left waiting even longer.
While Congress wants to avoid this outcome, its members are also vehement about certain needs for this new stimulus package. Here is a look at what they have been saying about the HEALS Act on social media.
I would hope that over 10 weeks of failing to act, Leader McConnell would at least get his facts straight:July 29, 2020
Up to 40 million people could be evicted if the federal gov doesn’t act boldly enough.
Right now, the risks of doing too little for COVID relief far outweigh the risk of doing “too much” for families.
People need rent + mortgage relief, 2nd stimulus check, & extended PUA *now.* https://t.co/tvq1kYEmKP— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 28, 2020
We have another chance to get $2k monthly checks out to Americans.@RepTimRyan and I are going LIVE tomorrow as we push for the Emergency Money for the People Act to be included in the next COVID relief package. Join us on Instagram at 12:15pm ET. pic.twitter.com/MXCXLgDMiF— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) July 29, 2020
Yvette D. Clarke
The unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have been a crucial lifeline.July 27, 2020
Marcia L. Fudge
The Republican pandemic relief bill includes $8 billion for military weaponry, including F-35s and Apache helicopters.
But what did they leave out of the package?
Funding to feed hungry Americans through SNAP and Pandemic EBT.— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) July 29, 2020
It’s clear the Senate GOP cares more about doing Trump’s bidding than addressing the needs of the American people in the next COVID-19 package.
This plan is beyond inadequate. pic.twitter.com/H6ZcGr5iWk— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) July 28, 2020