- Senate Republicans are circulating a slimmed-down coronavirus relief plan that omits federal unemployment benefits, The Washington Post reported.
- It would also provide for a one-month extension of an unemployment program for gig workers as well as traditional state benefits.
- Democrats trashed the proposal as “an insult” to workers and businesses suffering in the pandemic.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The plan from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sharply diverged from the $US908 billion bipartisan proposal that another group of senators unveiled on Tuesday. According to The Post, McConnell’s plan would contain:
- No additional federal unemployment benefits.
- No aid for state and local governments.
- One-month extension on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers as well as state benefits.
- Liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits businesses.
- $US105 billion in education funding.
The omission of federal unemployment benefits represents a stark reversal for McConnell, who has long touted another plan that included $US300 weekly aid for unemployed people. The plan would also omit $US1,200 stimulus checks, another Democratic priority.
“We just don’t have time to waste time. We have a couple of weeks left here,” McConnell said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Obviously, it does require bipartisan support to get out of Congress, but it requires a presidential signature.”
A spokesperson to McConnell declined to comment.
The plan was unlikely to gain the support of Democrats, who trashed the proposal as woefully insufficient to assist people and companies struggling in the pandemic.
“This is an insult to the millions of workers and businesses that are losing their livelihoods because of this crisis,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote on Twitter. “This proposal doesn’t come close to giving Americans the help they desperately need to stay afloat.”
Brian Riedl, an economist and policy expert at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, said Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on the size and composition of another relief package.
“It seems like some of the major areas of disagreement are state and local financing, cost, unemployment benefit details and the liability issue,” Riedl said in an interview. “Some of those can be bridged more easily than others.”
It remains unclear whether those differences can be closed with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar. Congressional leaders did not endorse the bipartisan stimulus plan, which was aimed at breaking the months-long deadlock on economic aid. It included $US300 weekly federal unemployment benefits, some state aid, and a temporary liability shield.
Congress faces mounting pressure to pass more aid as coronavirus cases surge and threaten to set back the economic recovery.
“Additional COVID relief is long overdue and must be passed in this lame duck session,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement following a phone call in which the pair also discussed year-end spending bills.