As the United States Senate and the U.S. Congress seek a compromise on the new stimulus check legislation, Republicans' refusal to budge on one key issue is holding the discussion back: money. Republican leaders in the Senate and the White House are openly refusing to consider spending more than $1 trillion on the economic relief bill. This leaves little wiggle room for negotiation, and is creating a "stalemate," some analysts say.
Lawmakers passed Congress' CARES Act back in March, setting a record for American stimulus spending at $2.2 trillion. Congress then passed the HEROES Act in May, looking to spend $3 trillion, but the Senate ignored the bill, citing concerns about the national debt. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has written the HEALS Act, with a strict price tag of no more than $1 trillion. In an interview with ABC News on Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked if his party would consider raising the price, and he answered: "that's something we're not going to do."
The GOP COVID-19 bill includes
$2 billion for F-35s
$1.75 billion for an FBI building
$1 billion for surveillance planes
$375 million for armored vehicles
$360 million for missile defense
$283 million for Apache helicopters
$0 for millions facing eviction
It's Dead on Arrival— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 28, 2020
"We have to balance," Mnuchin continued. "There's obviously a need to support workers, support the economy. On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt."
Some pundits have questioned the sincerity of Republicans' concern about the national debt. Back in May, economist David Plotz wrote an article for Business Insider, noting that it is unusual for Republicans to play that card when a member of their own party is in the Oval Office. He suggested that "Republicans will pass another stimulus bill" in the hopes of re-election, "but they have to grumble first."
Considering its reduced budget, the HEALS Act includes many provisions that are not directly related to economic relief for American taxpayers during the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Bernie Sanders has drawn attention to the bill's military spending, federal construction projects and even lunch write-offs for senators.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted that Democrats will put their foot down when it comes to federal unemployment aid in the new bill. As written, McConnell's plan would slash the emergency payments from $600 per week to $200, on a short-term basis. Pelosi argues that her party is "unified in support for $600."
After Democrats turned down offer of short-term extension, Speaker Pelosi says, “We have been for the $600. They have a $200 proposal which does not meet the needs of working families … the idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual.” https://t.co/qvp1ZOU4QD pic.twitter.com/GZEjjBz99r— ABC News (@ABC) August 2, 2020
During his TV appearance on Sunday, Mnuchin claimed that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had "proposed a one-week extension at $600, so that while we negotiate a longer term solution at least all those people don't lose their money." Appearing on the same ABC News program later on, Pelosi claimed that Mnuchin was lying.
"The idea that they made a proposal is not actually factual," she said. "The fact is that they're subjecting somebody who gets $600 to scrutiny that they won't subject somebody who is getting millions of dollars from PPP [Paycheck Protection Program]. Overwhemingly, this is keeping people out of poverty... the $600 is essential for America's working families. To condescend, to disrespect their motivation is so amazing."