Jeffries on Senate coronavirus bill: 'Totally irrelevant'

Jeffries on Senate coronavirus bill: 'Totally irrelevant'
© Greg Nash

The head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE was only partly right in describing the Republicans' latest coronavirus relief bill as "semi-irrelevant."

"The Republicans' coronavirus bill is not semi-irrelevant, it is totally irrelevant," Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesJeffries on Senate coronavirus bill: 'Totally irrelevant' Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters in the Capitol. "It is dead-on-arrival. It is a non-starter. Half the Senate Republicans don't even seem to support the Senate Republican coronavirus bill."

The comments highlight just how far apart the sides are as Democratic leaders and top administration officials are haggling over the fifth and latest round of emergency coronavirus relief.

In May, House Democrats had passed a massive $3.4 trillion package, providing hundreds of billions of dollars in expanded unemployment benefits, direct payments to individuals, medical equipment, coronavirus testing and help for state and local governments.

On Monday, Senate Republicans unveiled their counteroffer: a $1 trillion package that follows some of the broad contours of the Democrats' bill, but cuts many of the benefits far below the House level.

The GOP proposal, for instance, provides a $200 weekly enhancement for state unemployment benefits — down $400 from the Democrats' bill.

Additionally, Democrats had provided more than $900 billion for state and local governments, while the GOP bill provides no additional funding in that arena.

Democrats had also included funds for a host of safety-net programs, including housing subsidies, food stamps and child care benefits — issues not addressed in the GOP bill.

Jeffries said the absence of those safety-net programs makes the GOP bill inherently "inhumane."

"It should shock the conscience," he said.

Despite proposing the smaller spending package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders are facing tough headwinds as they try to rally fellow Republicans behind the bill.

A number of conservatives, for instance, are warning that the nation's deficit spending is already out of control following the initial four rounds of coronavirus relief, which have added up to nearly $3 trillion.

Those Republicans are lining up in opposition to any new spending that heaps more money on the debt, meaning McConnell likely doesn't have a simple majority supporting the bill in the Senate, let alone the 60 votes he'd need to defeat a Democratic filibuster.

Complicating the effort for the Republicans, Trump on Tuesday characterized the Senate GOP bill as "semi-irrelevant."

"We’ll be negotiating," he told reporters at the White House. "It’s sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and asks and the Republicans go with theirs.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) huddled in the Capitol both Monday and Tuesday with the administration's top negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE.

Emerging from Tuesday's meeting, the Democratic leaders highlighted an early hurdle to an agreement: McConnell's insistence that liability protections for businesses be a part of the final package.

"It seems to me that Sen. McConnell really doesn't want to get the agreement made," Pelosi said.

Pelosi on Wednesday morning said there were no updates to the talks, but noted that the talks with Mnuchin and Meadows would resume later in the day.

They have little time to waste: the expanded unemployment benefits for millions of people expire at the end of the week.