Democratic leaders criticize GOP stimulus bill as too pro-business

Greg Nash

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed the stimulus proposal released by Senate Republicans Thursday, saying it tilted too much toward helping businesses and did not focus enough on people who lose work because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are beginning to review Sen. McConnell’s proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement issued hours after the GOP plan was introduced on the Senate floor.

The GOP proposal includes a series of pro-business tax breaks, including a delay of employer-side payroll tax obligations until 2021 and 2022 and a loosening of a limit on claiming business losses against prior years’ income, which was used to pay for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The provision amounts to a payroll tax holiday for employers until after the 2020 election.

The Senate Republican plan also includes a $300 billion rescue package for small businesses, $58 billion in loans for U.S. passenger airlines and air cargo carriers, and $150 billion in loans for other affected industries.

It also features a centerpiece proposal to provide $1,200 rebate checks to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000, with the benefit being gradually phased out for incomes up to $99,000.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the legislation earlier Thursday for favoring corporations over workers.

“The pandemic is spreading, economic collapse is looming, and Republicans seem to be prioritizing the corporate tax wish list over the economic well-being of people who are losing their livelihoods at this very moment,” Wyden said in a statement. “Their proposal would do nothing to expand unemployment assistance for those who have lost their jobs overnight.

Schumer and other Democrats have called for a substantial beefing up of unemployment benefits, a proposal that has support from Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) but is not included in the proposal.

The GOP proposal’s business tax provisions received little public discussion in recent days but will add tens of billions of dollars to the cost of the stimulus.

Before Congress passed the 2017 tax law, businesses could carry losses back up to two years, but the GOP tax reform law eliminated net operating loss carry-backs. The plan Republican senators released Thursday would allow losses from 2018, 2019 and 2020 to be carried back for five years, providing businesses with more cash flow.

The immediate objections from Democratic leaders signal days of difficult negotiations to come over the weekend and next week.

McConnell invited Democrats to begin meeting with Republican negotiators on Friday.

“We need to take bold and swift action as soon as possible. We need to take further steps to continue addressing our nation’s health care needs and we need to help protect American workers, families and small businesses from this unique economic crisis that threatens to worsen with every single day,” he said on the floor Thursday afternoon.

Tags 2017 tax law Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Coronavirus Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi relief bill Ron Wyden Stimulus Package
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