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A new economic relief proposal by the Senate Republican leader falls short of addressing the needs of people and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the top Democrat on the funding panel said.
“Our economy will only make a comeback when the American people are confident that the virus is no longer a threat. Sen. [Mitch] McConnell’s ‘skinny’ bill will not provide that confidence,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Appropriations Committee ranking member. “There is no real plan for action. No real plan to pass a bill for the American people. This is unacceptable.”
Other top Democrats echoed Leahy’s sentiment. In a joint statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), emphasized, “Democrats want to work on bipartisan legislation that will meet the urgent needs of the American people, but Republicans continue to move in the wrong direction.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had scheduled the consideration of the latest COVID-19 relief aid measure for Sept. 10. The chamber rejected efforts to proceed with the bill by a vote of 52-47.
The measure, which prioritizes liability protections and aid for schools, proposes about $300 billion, with approximately $650 billion partially offset by transferring funds allocated for lending programs.
McConnell argued Democrats have pushed back on the GOP’s economic rescue strategy in a show of political animus. His caucus had unveiled a $1 trillion aid measure this summer. In May, the House passed a $3 trillion economic package backed by Pelosi that includes $15 billion for highway programs.
“Everything Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer have done suggests one simple motivation: They do not want American families to see any more bipartisan aid before the polls close on President [Donald] Trump’s re-election. They have taken Americans’ health, jobs and schools hostage for perceived partisan gain,” McConnell said. Members of his team, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), expressed support for the new measure.
As Cruz put it, “Now more than ever, families from all walks of life are seeing the need for real school choice. If passed, this legislation will provide all families, of the over 50 million schoolchildren across America, with the flexibility and support they need to prevent their children from falling behind during these uncertain times.”
While Congress and the Trump White House negotiate specifics pertaining to the next round of COVID-19 aid, myriad stakeholders continue to clamor for emergency funds. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, along with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have highlighted funding needs across the commercial and passenger transportation corridors.
“Emergency supplies need to get to hospitals. And our transportation network is essential for all of those actions to occur,” said Jim Tymon, executive director at AASHTO, which is urging Congress for an immediate infusion of $37 billion for state departments of Transportation.
Groups representing port authorities, public transportation operations, airlines, and other aspects of the transportation network have issued similar requests to Congress. Amtrak’s leadership recently told lawmakers the railroad needs additional funding to avoid job cuts. Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn told a House panel Sept. 9: “The extraordinary increase in unemployment that COVID-19 has spawned has reinforced the need for many additional good, living wage jobs for skilled employees of the kind that Amtrak, and the companies from which we buy equipment, goods and services, provide.”
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