Schumer vows Senate will take up ‘bold’ coronavirus bill, rejecting GOP offer

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed on Monday that the Senate would take up a “bold” coronavirus relief package, appearing to reject a smaller offer from Republicans. 

“Congress must pursue a bold and robust course of action. It makes no sense to pinch pennies when so many Americans are struggling,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.  

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday filed a joint budget resolution. It’s a first step that would allow Democrats to pass a coronavirus bill through reconciliation, enabling them to avoid a 60-vote Senate filibuster.  

The budget resolution includes instructions for crafting a $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, in line with the top-line figure proposed by President Biden.  

“[It] is the first step in giving Congress an additional legislative tool to quickly pass the COVID relief legislation. The resolution, if passed by both chambers of Congress, will provide instructions for the House and Senate committees to begin work,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.  

Schumer didn’t provide any details on when the Senate would vote on the budget resolution. The House is posed to pass it on Wednesday, and the Senate needs to pass it before former President Trump’s impeachment trial starts next week.  

The decision to move forward with the reconciliation process comes as a group of 10 Senate Republicans will meet with Biden and Vice President Harris on coronavirus relief. 

The Senate GOP group has proposed a $618 billion coronavirus relief package, roughly a third of the size favored by Democrats.  

The GOP offer doesn’t include money for state and local governments. It includes a smaller weekly unemployment benefit and a smaller direct assistance payment that is more targeted.

Schumer didn’t directly mention the GOP proposal but warned against passing a relief bill that was too small.  

“The only thing we cannot accept is a package that is too small or too narrow to pull our country out of this emergency. We cannot repeat the mistake of 2009, and we must act very soon to get this assistance to those so desperately in need,” Schumer said. 

The White House has also tempered expectations that Biden will cut a deal during Monday’s meeting, and the GOP proposal has been panned by top Democrats, including incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (Ore.).  

Both the budget resolution and the ultimate coronavirus legislation will test Democrats’ unity if they decide to move forward without GOP support. 

Schumer will need the support of every member of his caucus in order to get both through the Senate. Democrats have a 50-50 majority because Harris can break any ties. 

Democrats haven’t yet united on the specifics of the coronavirus proposal, including how to structure the direct assistance and whether to include language increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.  

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also refused to tell reporters last week if he would vote for the budget resolution. 

Schumer, on Monday, stressed that Democrats were still willing to incorporate GOP ideas and hoped the eventual coronavirus legislation would be bipartisan. 

“There is nothing in this process that will preclude it from being bipartisan. We welcome Republican input,” he said.  

But Republicans have fumed as Democrats appear poised to go it alone on coronavirus relief, arguing that it’s out of step with Biden’s message of unity. 

“It’s designed to preclude bipartisanship right? That’s the purpose of it. If they wanted to find the common ground that we have between Democrats and Republicans, they could do that, and that’s what happened in March, and that’s what happened in December. But if they go down this road, it’s clear that they’re done with that,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). 

Tags Charles Schumer Coronavirus coronavirus relief COVID-19 COVID-19 relief Donald Trump Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi Pat Toomey Reconciliation Ron Wyden

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