Democrats fume over GOP coronavirus bill: 'Totally inadequate'

Senate Democrats are fuming over a coronavirus stimulus package being circulated by Republicans. 

Democrats emerged from a closed-door caucus lunch arguing that the bill fell short on several key provisions and urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) to delay an initial procedural vote — something he ultimately agreed to, rescheduling the 3 p.m. vote for 6 p.m.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Voters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (D-W.Va.), one of the most conservative members within the Senate Democratic caucus, called the draft proposal the “same old repeated story from Mitch McConnell.” 


The procedural vote is slated to be on a "shell bill," a placeholder while the Senate finalizes language for the legislation.

“I’m not going to vote yes then no and this and that. ...If they can work out something between now and three, then that’s fine,” Manchin added. 

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) called the GOP bill “bad news” and that it was focused on “bailing out the biggest corporations."

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.) called it "totally inadequate."

Democrats have outlined a laundry list of objectionable provisions, arguing that the bill does not expand paid sick leave and actually caps how much employers have to pay.


A source familiar with the GOP bill text also said Republicans are “refusing to add strong worker protections” and have included language requiring companies keep employees “to the extent possible.”

Democrats worry the language is vague enough that corporations could take federal help and still fire workers. Democrats also wanted strong restrictions on corporations who take federal help, but the source said the GOP bill included “very weak” stock buyback restrictions that could be waived by Mnuchin.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Senate Democrats press VA for vaccine distribution plan President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE, a moderate Montana Democrat, said the negotiations "haven't been particularly bipartisan."

"It's not well thought out, it doesn't put the priorities with workers to begin with, there's too much money, there's no oversight — not too much money, [but] too much money that they can do whatever the hell they want with, and with no oversight whatsoever," he said. 

The GOP bill, according to the source, also increases a “corporate bail out fund” to $500 billion. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoMnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Shelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences MORE (R-Idaho) had pushed to increase the $208 billion proposed in the original GOP plan to ensure distressed industries have access to capital.


A Democratic aide confirmed the change, characterizing the bill as currently drafted as a “non-starter.”

"Right now people are very unhappy about the Republicans have put forward. ... The overall view is that they want to create a slush fund for giant corporations," Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.) told reporters after the lunch. 

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Ore.) said that the bill also walked back an understanding he had with Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyColorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Ore.) on extending unemployment insurance. 

"On unemployment insurance we've made a fair amount of headway," he said. "But based on what I've heard, what we had agreed to has now been kind of ratcheted down. So I'm kind of trying to figure out what the state of play is."

Van Hollen added that “some of the commitments that were made [to Democrats]  … were pulled back."

Republicans have defended their process, noting they spent days behind closed doors negotiating with both the administration and Democrats.

GOP senators began drafting the bill even without an overall deal. But, they said that they included areas of bipartisan agreement where they existed and tried to draft the legislation in a way that could garner bipartisan support in areas there they didn't have a deal.

"What we intend to do here in the Senate is to move forward with the Senate bill. I'm hopeful and optimistic that we will get bipartisan support because this bill has been negotiated on a bipartisan basis," McConnell said during a press conference on Sunday.

Mike Lillis contributed.