Democrats fear that a Republican plan to send cash directly to millions of Americans will derail their myriad schemes and hoaxes to win the 2020 election as the coronavirus pandemic rages.
Workers around the country desperately need help as they lose their jobs and incomes while they stay home to ward off the outbreak.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday he expects a vote Monday morning. Under the proposed bill, a family of four would get “direct deposits” or checks of about $3,000.
Unemployment claims next week could hit three million, Bank of America said this week, and many workers do not have insurance or paid leave.
Bi-partisan Senate negotiators are still diddling over passing the legislation, backed by President Donald Trump, that would send cash, provide payroll support and boost unemployment benefits.
California Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly preferred targeting those hit hardest by the pandemic, as opposed to sending cash to every American. Her Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill argued Tuesday that direct financial relief will have to be means tested, not universal.
“The Speaker believes we should look at refundable tax credits, expanded [unemployment insurance] and direct payments — but MUST be targeted,” he tweeted.
“This is a public health crisis of the likes that has not been seen in a century,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas, last week. “We worry that the bill is setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting are refundable tax credit that won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off,” Cotton argued on Fox & Friends last Monday.
He also tweeted, “Our government at every level has to take responsibility for caring for our people and caring for their health and their material well-being as well.”
Sam Seder, host of The Majority Report radio show called it “the terrifying moment when Tom Cotton is more left than Pelosi,” last Tuesday.
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah also proposed on Twitter last Monday that “every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last Tuesday, “We are looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now — and I mean now in the next two weeks.”
HuffPost reporter Zach Carter tweeted last Tuesday, “A handful of Republicans are outflanking Democrats on coronavirus aid.” He shared a plan by Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, to send checks for several thousand dollars to families.
“If Republicans move in this direction and Democrats keep insisting on narrowly targeted means-tested plans with a zillion carve-outs for particular businesses, it will be a catastrophe for the Democratic Party,” Carter wrote.
Vox’s Dylan Matthews also wrote last Tuesday, “If the cash is genuinely unrestricted, it would be a historic move. While Americans received checks as part of the response to recessions in 2001 and 2008, those were sent out as rebates or refunds to taxpayers.”
Never before have all Americans, regardless of income, and including the poorest citizens who do not earn enough money to have positive income tax burdens, gotten checks,” wrote Matthews.
“I truly don’t know how to describe how maddening it is that Republicans and Trump officials are to the left of Congressional Dem leadership on this issue,” tweeted activist Jordan Uhl last Wednesday.
Initially Republicans were proposing a second check sent in mid-May if economic circumstances warrant, but that idea has been shelved with no end to the pandemic in sight.
Democrats are busy trying to upstage the popular direct-cash proposal with a plan that they believe would help stimulate the economy — an expansion of unemployment benefits nicknamed “unemployment on steroids or employment insurance.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer Saturday touting the plan. “You lose your job because of this crisis, or any other reason, the federal government will pay you your full salary for four to six months — we’re trying to get six — for the whole time,” Schumer said.
“And that way you will have money for every month. You will have money at the same level you were making before, and you could be able to at least pay your bills, and then if the crisis is over you’ll go back to your old job because you’ll have your bills — the company will just furlough you — and that’ll work,” he argued.
Democrats are complaining that there are still major hurdles before they get to an agreement, even though $250 billion is expected to be allocated to unemployment insurance. They are also quibbling about expanded paid leave provisions even though the second stimulus package passed in the House already include those provisions.
Lawmakers missed a Saturday evening deadline on a the $1 trillion-plus stimulus package. They already missed a Friday deadline set by Kentucky Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Negotiators are working to resolve disagreements on key issues with a looming procedural vote scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday.