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 Cornyn (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.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

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 Shelby (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 Wicker (Miss.) and Mike Braun (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 Moran (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. 

Tags Coronavirus Jerry Moran John Cornyn Mike Braun Mitch McConnell relief bill Richard Shelby Roger Wicker

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