Democratic and Republican leaders failed to negotiate a fourth round of coronavirus relief legislation ahead of the Senate adjourning for the weekend, leaving uncertainty about the long-term future of the $600 unemployment insurance boost expiring Friday.
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump expressed support for extending unemployment insurance as a temporary fix while negotiations continue and Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) attempted to do so on the Senate floor, reports Politico.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has been engaging in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, blocked the Arizona senator’s attempt, arguing that “a one-week fix can’t be implemented in time and the senator knows that,” according to Roll Call.
McSally reportedly responded by saying that it was in fact Schumer “who’s against this on his path to become the majority leader. And that’s unfortunate.”
Negotiations between Democratic leaders and White House officials in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office were also unsuccessful. (Pelosi has reportedly compared the negotiation process to trying to mate a flamingo with a giraffe at the zoo, and Schumer has compared the Republican proposal to a chihuahua and the Democratic proposal to a lion.)
“In the discussions in Pelosi’s office later in the evening, Mnuchin and Meadows offered a longer extension of the $600-per-week benefit to cover several months, but only as a stand-alone measure, according to sources familiar with the talks,” reports Politico. “Pelosi and Schumer rejected the offer, saying they don’t want to negotiate an agreement in piecemeal fashion. Democrats also insist the federal payment should extend well into 2021, which Republicans are unwilling to do.”
The unemployment insurance proposal that has been floated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would replace up to 70% of a person’s wages beginning in September, according to The Wall Street Journal. In the meantime, the $600 weekly unemployment boost would be reduced to $200 per week.
With little to no progress made toward an actual bill, the legislative accomplishment of the night seems to revert to the Senate, which passed a “shell bill” — a piece of legislation that can be amended with the contents of an actual bill next week, reports CBS News.
While empty, this shell bill can become helpful should a breakthrough in negotiations occur, or a preference for a stand alone bill instead of a comprehensive legislative package as envisioned by Democrats emerges.
As it stands, the current bill Democrats have offered for negotiations is the Heroes Act, a House-passed legislative package that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has derided as a “multi-trillion-dollar socialist manifesto.”
“This is the multi-trillion-dollar boondoggle that would tax and borrow in order to provide a massive tax cut to rich people in blue states — the SALT giveaway — fund diversity studies of the legal pot industry, and do a thousand other things with no relationship to this crisis,” said McConnell on the Senate floor Thursday.
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