Washington — Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats of pushing a coronavirus relief package that focuses on "shoveling cash at the problem and shutting America down" as negotiations on the next measure continue.
In an interview with "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Cruz said the country is confronting two crises simultaneously: a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 people worldwide and an "absolute economic catastrophe" in the U.S.
But Cruz said Pelosi, whoon "Face the Nation" ahead of the senator, " is "focused on neither of those."
"Her objectives are shoveling cash at the problem and shutting America down," the Texas Republican said. "And in particular, you look at the $3 trillion bill she's trying to push, it's just shoveling money to her friends and not actually solving the problem. Our objective should be Americans want to get back to work. They want to be able to provide for their family."
Senate Republicans and the White House spent last week negotiating the terms of the fourth phase of the coronavirus response, which they expect to cost $1 trillion. Over the weekend, White House chief of staff Mark Meadow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin headed back to Capitol Hill for more talks with Senate staff, and Mnuchin told Fox News in an interview Sunday the details are set to be unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday.
The most pressing issue for lawmakers — and a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats — is the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, which began to go away this weekend. While Democrats want the "phase four" coronavirus package to keep the $600 boost to the benefits, Republicans are calling for it to be pared back and argue some Americans make more from unemployment than they did in wages.
Cruz said more than half of Americans receiving the enhanced unemployment benefits are paid more now than when they were working and said he's talked to small business owners in Texas who are having trouble rehiring employees.
"Of course, they won't come back because the federal government is paying them, in some instances, twice as much money to stay home," he said.
Cruz said Congress should be focusing on passing a recovery bill that would make it easier for Americans to return to work by easing taxes and regulations on small businesses "instead of just shoveling trillions out the door." "A recovery bill would suspend the payroll tax, which would give it a pay raise to everyone in America who's working. That actually gets people back to work," he said.
President Trump demanded last week the next aid package include a payroll tax cut, but Mnuchin said it will not be part of the legislation, as the proposal was ill-received among Republicans. Mr. Trump acknowledged the payroll tax cut would be absent from the next bill but sought to pin the blame on Democrats.
Cruz, who last week objected to the cost of the next package, said Sunday he is not on board with the measure from his fellow Senate Republicans. But he also criticized the $3 trillion bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House in May and accused his political opponents of deliberately crafting a measure that damages the president ahead of the November election.
"The only objective Democrats have is to defeat Donald Trump, and they've cynically decided the best way to defeat Donald Trump is shut down every business in America, shut down every school in America," he said. "You know, Nancy Pelosi talks about working men and women. What she's proposing is keeping working men and women from working."