Senate GOP releases Covid proposal amid internal divisions

The White House-backed Senate GOP proposal reduces boosted unemployment benefits from $600 to $200.


By Marianne Levin, John Breshnahan and Sarah Ferris, POLITICO



Senate Republicans released their $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal Monday afternoon, setting off what could be weeks of tough political battles with Democrats over unemployment insurance, state and local aid, and liability protection for businesses and schools as the pandemic continues to batter the U.S. economy.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) outlined the pillars of the proposal, which will include another round of $1,200 in direct payments to individual Americans, more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, a reduction in boosted federal unemployment benefits, liability protection and more than $100 billion for reopening schools and colleges.


With the introduction of the GOP proposal, talks with Democrats will begin in earnest.


"Which version of our distinguished Democratic colleagues are the American people about to get?" McConnell asked on the Senate floor. "Are they going to get the Democratic Party we got in March when our colleagues met in good faith negotiations and worked with us to turn our framework into a bipartisan product?"


But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they were "somewhat frustrated" with Senate Republicans following a 90-minute closed-door session with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are leading the talks for the Trump administration.


"We had hoped there would be a bill. Instead, in the Senate, they put together little pieces here, and there, and everywhere," Schumer told reporters Monday night. "It's pretty clear they don't have 51 votes in the Senate among the Republicans for a proposal. It's frustrating."


Pelosi repeatedly noted the GOP package had $2 billion for the FBI, including funding to help renovate the bureau's headquarters building on Pennsylvania Ave., which is located across the Trump International Hotel.


"This isn't serious," Pelosi complained. "This is wrong. We have to do what's right for the American people."


The Senate GOP plan calls for the reduction in increased federal unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 per week for a 60-day period, or until states are able to provide a 70 percent wage replacement. This prospective change had been floated by the White House last week, although there have been concerns whether state unemployment agencies could handle the revisions.


"The boosted unemployment benefits are significantly more than the Democratic Senate and Democratic president approved in the 2009 economic crisis," Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on the floor Monday.


The GOP package also provides additional flexibility for the $150 billion in state funds provided under the CARES Act...


... Pelosi has also rejected the piece-by-piece idea which some insiders are referring to as a "skinny" proposal as a non-starter.


"It's good that they called it skinny because that's what you get when you don't have enough to eat," Pelosi said, decrying the lack of food stamp money in the GOP plan...