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Democrats say Senate GOP COVID-19 relief bill won't pass

By
Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Republican proposal for a $1 trillion COVID-19 relief bill won't pass Congress. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Republican proposal for a $1 trillion COVID-19 relief bill won't pass Congress. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

July 23 (UPI) -- Democrats on Thursday said the coronavirus relief bill that Senate Republicans and the White House have hashed out falls "very short" of their expectations and said it likely won't pass through Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York lambasted the proposed legislation for failing to include food, and rent assistance, money for local and state governments, hazard pay for essential workers and elections funding.

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"What we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus, and in order to open our schools and open our economy," Pelosi said during her weekly news conference. "We have to act. And what they're proposing falls far short."

A group of senators and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday night they have "a fundamental agreement" on their version of the bill, which they expected to introduce Thursday as a series of measures rather than in a single bill.

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"We'll have one appropriations bill, we'll have several authorization bills that explain in more detail how that appropriated money will be spent, and obviously there will be a bill that will talk about any money that is distributed in direct payments or any other way," said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chair of the Senate rules committee.

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The Senate bill will be a starting point for negotiations with the Democratic-led House, which in May passed a $3 trillion bill that seeks to extend a $600-per-week increase for unemployment benefits -- a measure mostly opposed by Republican senators. Both sides have said they want a deal signed before the August recess.

Schumer described the proposal as partisan and said it will never pass Congress.

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"Republicans need to pull their head out of the sand, get their act together, sit down with Speaker Pelosi and me, and start negotiating a real package," he said Thursday.

While cautioning that the proposal is still fluid due to disagreements among GOP lawmakers and the White House, senators said late Wednesday the bill will likely have a price tag of around $1 trillion.

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Mnuchin said the bill will include another stimulus payment for many Americans, but it's not yet clear what the qualifying criteria will be. Most Americans received at least $1,200 during the first round of stimulus.

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Under the agreement, schools would get $105 billion, including $70 billion for K-12 schools, $30 billion for colleges and $5 billion for governors to give to either. About half of the K-12 funding will be contingent on whether schools have fully reopened during the pandemic.

Still undecided, however, is whether or how to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, which expire next week. Deep divisions remain within the Republican caucus on the issue, which has given unemployed Americans an additional $600 per week.

One of President Donald Trump's top priorities, a payroll tax cut, is also unclear, GOP leaders said.

Senate finance committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said it might not be possible to have a new round of stimulus and a payroll tax cut and remain within a $1 trillion spending limit.

"I don't think you can fit them both in," he said.

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