The Senate is far from reaching a bipartisan agreement on the fifth round of coronavirus relief, as both Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber cast blame Thursday morning on the other side for the delay.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats are holding up a deal, demanding taxpayer-funded checks go out to illegal immigrants and money be allocated for studies on the legal marijuana industry.
As the negotiations are ongoing, unemployment benefits for nearly 30 million Americans are set to expire this month, and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures could lapse.
The Kentucky Republican, though, said Democrats are demanding more money for state and local governments — especially blue states — but state and local governments have only used about 25% of the funding Congress gave them in the previous COVID-19 relief bill, Mr. McConnell claimed.
“This is silly stuff,” the majority leader said. “Democrats are holding up help for struggling people for tax breaks for rich people in blue states.”
The two parties are also far apart on how to handle the unemployment benefits, which had been at $600 a week.
Senate Republicans want to lower that to $200 a week so workers will go back to work, as many speculate the high dollar amount is more than what employees may make while on the job.
But Democrats have been firm in demanding the higher weekly payout continue.
“They show zero appetite for any bipartisan outcome,” Mr. McConnell said of Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said reducing the unemployment by the drastic amount proposed by the GOP would be giving people who lost their jobs at no fault of their own a substantial pay cut, calling the move “shocking, inhumane, wrong.”
The New York Democrat said at least 20 Republicans in the chamber don’t back the GOP proposals and the bill would never pass the House.
He said Mr. McConnell is not sitting in on negotiations between him, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“The reason negotiations are going nowhere right now is because Republicans are divided,” Mr. Schumer said. “We are trying to negotiate. The Senate Republicans are not.”
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