A new package is in the works as both sides of Congress state their demands.
Lawmakers have returned to Washington from around the country to begin their talks on a pandemic relief package for the United States. These talks come at an important time, as cases in the country are at an all time high, unemployment filings are still in the millions, and the extra $600 in unemployment benefits are due to run out this week. Barring any sudden upheavals, this could be the final aid package for the US until the November Presidential Election has come and gone.
Democratic senators have demanded more money for individual states, in order to better shore up against healthcare costs and economic damage, as well as an extension to the $600 bonus in unemployment checks. On the other end, Republicans are demanding increased liability protections for private businesses, as well as cuts to the unemployment bonus down to either $400 or $200.
President Donald Trump’s own desires and opinions are weighing heavily on these talks, to the point that even his own Republican base is disagreeing with him on several points. Congress has been attempting to set aside a large portion of the hypothetical bill’s money to be put toward increased COVID-19 testing and tracing efforts. President Trump, however, has been trying to block this allocation of funds, repeatedly claiming that increased testing is not necessary and that the COVID-19 case numbers are only as high as they are because the United States’ testing efforts are allegedly more than sufficient already. President Trump has also stated that he may refuse to sign a stimulus bill if it does not contain a new payroll tax cut. These demands have put the President at odds with many Republican senators, whose states have been hit especially hard by the virus.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of attempting to pen the bill without Congress’ knowledge or consent. “Leader McConnell has said that he wants to write the next coronavirus legislation behind the closed doors of his office,” Schumer told his colleagues. “From what we understand from press reports, leader McConnell’s bill will prioritize corporate special interests over workers and main street businesses, and will fail to adequately address the worsening spread of the coronavirus.”
Congress is set to go on recess for the entirety of August, which means senators only have this week and the next to get the new bill finalized.