Top Republican leaders — from Donald Trump to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — are dismissing a bill from congressional Democrats that would provide economic security to workers most impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, saying they don’t want to rush a response.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill this week that would give workers 14 days of paid sick leave (the number of days someone with COVID-19 or those suspected to have it must remain in quarantine), as well as provide food security to low-income families that rely on food stamps or free school lunch. It would also make testing for the virus free.
But Trump and McConnell are dismissing the bill, with Trump saying it’s full of “goodies” and McConnell saying offering free testing and economic security for vulnerable communities is “not related to the pressing issues at hand.”
“There are things in there that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “So you know, it’s not a way for them to get some of the goodies that they haven’t been able to get for the last 25 years.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said similarly that Republicans want to take their time with any response — even as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to grow and the economy slows. The stock market has continued to plummet as well.
“We are committing to get this right,” McCarthy said Thursday at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “We’re working with the White House, with Secretary Mnuchin, and with the speaker. We should not just take a rush just because there’s a bill. We want to make sure it works in the process of where we’re going.”
Additionally, a White House official told the Washington Post on Thursday that it opposes covering coronavirus testing for the uninsured. The White House reportedly believes that reimbursing laboratory claims would lead to federal funding for abortion, though it’s unclear on what they are basing that conclusion.
The comments come after Trump himself taunted Pelosi, attacking her for tempering expectations for how quickly legislation can pass to help those impacted by office and school closures, as well as event cancellations that cause hourly workers and those without paid leave to miss out on pay.
“Nancy Pelosi just said, ‘I don’t know if we can be ready this week.’ In other words, it’s off to vacation for the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “That’s been the story with them for 1 1/2 years!”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had initially told reporters that Senate Republicans won’t even begin to take action on a coronavirus response bill until after the chamber returns from a planned recess. Senators weren’t scheduled to be back from that recess until March 23.
Given how fast the virus can spread, it’s unclear what the situation in the United States may look like in 11 days.
In Italy, for example, the virus is spreading at a rapid clip, despite drastic lockdown measures to stop it.
The country saw its number of cases double from roughly 2,500 on March 4 to 5,800 on March 7, the New York Times reported. The death toll also soared, jumping from 36 to 233, according to the Times.
McConnell, however, announced Thursday afternoon that the Senate would cancel the planned recess to negotiate on a bill, though it’s unclear when a vote will take place.
“Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week,” he tweeted. “I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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