The fate of a COVID-19 relief bill to deliver aid for millions of Americans left desperate by the pandemic rests in the hands of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday.
As daily cases of the virus in the U.S. hit record highs over the last week, the pair of Democratic lawmakers said it’s vital for both parties to come together on legislation that keeps the economy afloat and enables workers to stay home to contain the spread of the outbreak.
President Trump on Saturday tweeted support for a new relief package — and suggested Democrats were to blame for a political stalemate that’s kept any major pandemic aid from being passed since March.
But Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Trump’s communique was in reality directed at McConnell.
“It should say McConnell should do this, because he’s who’s holding it all up,” said Schumer. “The Republican Senate refuses to move forward on any kind of COVID bill that has any kind of relief for the American people.”
Democrats have for six months been stonewalled by McConnell and other Republicans in their effort to expand pandemic-related unemployment benefits, renter protections and aid to state and local governments.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in May passed the HEROES Act, which would have extended a $600 weekly boost in unemployment insurance that expired at the end of July.
The bill also would have provided $4 billion in relief to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has called for another $12 billion from Congress by the end of 2021 after receiving $4 billion through the CARES Act passed in March.
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the summer worked with the White House to trim down the HEROES Act proposal — but the bill was still unable to make it past the Senate.
Gillibrand said a main holdup was McConnell’s push to make businesses free from liability for any COVID-19 outbreaks or deaths that occur within their workplaces.
“He is so fixated on liability protection he’s unwilling to send the aid that’s needed to cities and states across the country,” Gillibrand said.
Schumer said McConnell should see President-elect Biden’s victory in this month’s election as a mandate from the American people for more pandemic aid.
With the Senate majority hanging on a pair of Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia, Schumer said it could be McConnell’s last chance to direct a pandemic relief package.
“Republicans are spending all their time saying the election wasn’t legitimate,” said Schumer. “We know it’s legitimate. Now work with us, get a COVID bill done.”
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