Senate Republicans poised to reject House coronavirus relief bill

Senate Republicans say they will not be rushed into accepting a House Democratic bill to provide paid sick leave and a variety of other safety-net aid to people affected by the coronavirus.

“I don’t think we ought to be stampeded into doing something that we wouldn’t otherwise think is a good idea. We need to respond in an appropriate way and in a targeted way, not just throw money at the problem,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas).

Cornyn said the House bill appears to be an effort by Democratic leaders to “score political points” by pressuring GOP lawmakers to accept an array of welfare spending that they know would be tough for conservatives to swallow.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell urges people to wear masks: 'There's no stigma' Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday morning panned the House bill as “an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances."

“Instead of focusing on immediate relief to affected individuals, families and businesses, the House Democrats chose to wander into various areas of policy that are barely related if at all to the issue before us,” McConnell said.

The initial opposition from GOP lawmakers to the House bill means there’s a good chance Congress will leave town for the weeklong March recess without passing a second coronavirus relief bill.

Lawmakers passed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill earlier this month to help contain the virus’s spread.

The second coronavirus preparedness and response bill floated by House Democrats would provide $5 million for emergency paid sick days, $500 million for access to nutritious foods for low-income pregnant women, and $400 million to help local food banks, among other assistance.

It would also provide $250 million for the senior nutrition program to help low-income seniors who are house-bound or living with disabilities.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill provides $1 billion in emergency grants for processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits, with $500 million reserved for states that see a 10 percent spike in unemployment.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTop Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump McConnell, GOP senators support exempting VA health funds from budget caps MORE (R-Ala.) called the House bill full of “Christmas tree ornaments.”

“I think that the House is loading it up with stuff that’s probably not going to protect anybody,” he said.

He said, “as it’s written,” the House bill is unacceptable.

Senate Republicans such as Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (Miss.) and Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Republicans introduce bill to create legal 'safe harbor' for gig companies during the pandemic MORE (Ind.) argued that Congress has already acted by passing the previous bill.

“What did we pass just a little more than a week ago? $8.3 billion. So that’s [not] like we have not done nothing. We’ve done something significant,” Braun said.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMemorial Day during COVID-19: How to aid our country's veterans Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (R-Kan.) said, “I’m interested in passing something that actually makes a difference.”

“If we pass the right thing, I’m all in. If that’s not the product, then we need to take the time to get it right,” he added.

Republican senators said they will examine and discuss the House bill more closely during a lunch meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Jordain Carney contributed.