GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus

GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans and Democrats identified different sticking points Monday as they failed to reach agreement on a coronavirus-spurred stimulus package, with GOP lawmakers repeatedly arguing environmental efforts should not be included in the bill.

But Democrats argued in various floor speeches that the hold up on the bill was largely over their concerns it fails to address the public health crisis by sufficiently bolstering the health care system and neglects some of the most vulnerable segments of society.

“We're here trying to fight for the man and woman on the street in our hometowns, and yet they're fighting for the Green New Deal,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling bipartisan energy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump, Biden battle over vaccine, economy; Congress returns MORE (R-Wyo.) said on the Senate floor Monday.

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Environmentalists have been pushing hard to secure a variety of environmental measures in the stimulus package, fighting funding that might go to the oil and gas industry while pushing for tax incentives for renewables and tougher emissions requirements on airlines. 

But most of those options haven’t secured any clear path forward, and only the House stimulus bill would force carbon reduction measures on the airline industry in exchange for a bailout.

Measures included in the Green New Deal, such as moving to 100 percent clean electricity or guaranteeing universal health care, have not been included in any proposals.

Still, Republicans have largely framed their opposition to any Senate deal as a matter of fighting environmental measures they don’t see as germane.

“Emissions standards? What’s that got to do with the virus? Nothing,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on the floor Monday evening. 

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Meanwhile Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzVideo of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Democrat on Graham video urging people to 'use my words against me': 'Done' MORE (R-Texas) blamed Democrats for being “willing to extort a crisis to try to advance their political agenda,” specifically citing his opposition to tax credits for the wind industry. 

But Democrats said the alarmism over environmental measures was misleading. 

“I keep hearing about the House wanting a Green New Deal as part of this emergency package. That’s a total red herring,” Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenMid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution Trump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash Senators urge administration to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-M.D.) said. 

“There’s no Green New Deal in this thing, so let’s get real.”

Democrats have argued the Senate stimulus package simply doesn’t contain enough support for health care systems or their employees. 

“Yes, we don’t think it's wise to spend $2 trillion if the bill doesn't stop the public health epidemic,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic senator calls for 'more flexible' medical supply chain to counter pandemics The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon GOP chairman to release interim report on Biden probe 'in about a week' MORE (D-Conn.) said.