Lawmakers may have less than two weeks to negotiate the new stimulus package, and Democrats have made one priority clear: maximizing emergency unemployment benefits. The new Republican bill cuts the $600 unemployment enhancement to $200, with plans to cut it further over time. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN that they would not insist on raising that number to $600 exactly, but would press the issue.
"Look, it's not $600 or bust," Hoyer said. "[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi said the other day, which I thought was a great line: 'We don't have red lines, we have values.' We're going into these negotiations with values... To say that $600 or nothing, no, that's not where we are. We're prepared to discuss this. But we're also not prepared, however, to let down the American people, to let down the states, the cities, the local governments who hire people, who are meeting this pandemic's crisis, including health personnel."
Hoyer echoed the sentiment of many other Democrats and their reactions to the new Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act — or, HEALS Act. The legislation was written by the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in under two weeks, with input from the Trump administration. It comes after McConnell and other Republican senators ignored the U.S. Congress' HEROES Act back in May.
McConnell's bill comes with less than half the funding of the CARES Act at $1 trillion, while the HEROES Act would have added even more at $3 trillion. The cuts were made in the unemployment enhancements, as well as funding for states and local governments to conduct testing, research, and other coronavirus prevention safety measures.
McConnell's prolonged wait to address this issue makes time a huge factor in these deliberations. Congress is set to leave Washington on a recess on July 31, while the United States Senate is scheduled to leave shortly after. Many pundits are questioning whether the Democrats will be able to stall for their priorities in the same way that Republicans did.
Either way, chief among those priorities appears to be unemployment enhancement, as many Democratic leaders have made clear online. Here is a look at how some lawmakers are putting their foot down on the issue.
The Republicans' COVID-19 plan? 100% deductions for rich people to go out for three-martini lunches while millions of Americans are facing hunger and eviction.
Pathetic is too mild a word. pic.twitter.com/LMVJrao2xQ— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 28, 2020
The GOP bill cuts unemployment checks & doesn’t extend the eviction moratorium, but it does spend $1.75B to conveniently help stop a new hotel from being built a block away from the Trump Hotel.
This bill doesn’t help struggling families. It helps Trump. https://t.co/SckYRrbRN2— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) July 28, 2020
Republicans had 10 weeks and came up with a wholly inadequate proposal that:— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) July 29, 2020
-Cuts the $600 unemployment benefit to $200
-Does not reinstate the eviction moratorium
-Provides no money for state and local governments
-Gives $8B for weapons systems but not enough for testing
While Republicans propose totally inadequate solutions, I'm going to keep pushing for $2,000 monthly payments, extended unemployment benefits, a $125 billion fund for small neighborhood businesses, and a stop to evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs.— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) July 29, 2020
This list is just the start. Can you believe we had to wait more than two months for this ludicrous proposal?? They're wasting time and endangering lives & livelihoods. https://t.co/tpjGQm9PJ7— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 29, 2020
Senate Republicans have waited over TWO MONTHS to release their half-baked proposal, the #HEALSAct.— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) July 27, 2020
What does it do for the 30 million unemployed workers, laid off by no fault of their own?
It cuts their unemployment benefits by $400 a week. pic.twitter.com/wdVHN6IDfy
Every #COVID19 relief bill must support the needs of people suffering from economic injustice — not those of corporations.
Cancel student debt, extend unemployment benefits, and bail out the people!pic.twitter.com/ADfO2Ux8I4— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 29, 2020