On Monday, the GOP officially revealed the HEALS Act, finally prompting negotiations that have so far gone nowhere and are now being likened to "a true goat rodeo" by one Senate Republican. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been meeting daily with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, though the talks have largely stalled.
Speaking with America's Newsroom on Thursday, Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy called the Senate's relief talks "an impressively large cluster event," with a deal seeming far off. Kennedy, according to Fox News, explained that "as bad as it looks from the outside, you ought to see it from the inside." He went on to describe the ongoing discussions "a true goat rodeo."
The HEALS Act, the GOP's answer to the coronavirus pandemic and the struggling economy, has largely been met with opposition from both sides of the aisle. While both Democrats and Republicans had voiced their support for a second round of stimulus checks, which are included in this new proposal, there remains a number of sticking points, including the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit, which is set to expire Friday at midnight. Speaking with host Sandra Smith, Kennedy said that the bill also includes "a lot of spending porn," something that he said he has pointed out to both his colleagues and the White House.
That "spending porn" includes a number of provisions that have little to nothing to do with coronavirus relief. Included in a 177-page appropriations section is a provision that would provide $1.75 billion "for the design and construction of a Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation." While President Donald Trump, who had previously pushed for such funding, has supported the funding, the provision has been met with bipartisan opposition. There is also controversy surrounding $377 million included in the package for a West Wing remodel, something that Trump also reportedly wants included in the next relief package.
Directly addressing the funding for a new FBI building, Kennedy said that it would be "a mistake" to include such a provision. Stating that "this is supposed to be a coronavirus bill," Kennedy added, "now's not the time to build a new FBI building, now is not the time to renovate the West Wing of the White House, now is not the time to give $175 million to the corporation for public radio."