GOP's latest virus relief bill doesn't even protect essential workers

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Mitch McConnell is prioritizing Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation over critical relief for his own constituents.

After months of failing to pass a second stimulus package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that Republicans would try to pass yet another piecemeal relief bill when the Senate reconvenes next week.

Republicans' proposed $500 billion in aid is less than a quarter of what Democrats are seeking, and well under what Donald Trump has sought for coronavirus-related relief funds.

Republicans' latest lowball offer will likely force Democrats to vote against a stimulus bill that falls more than a trillion dollars short of their estimates for what is needed to help millions of Americans get through a long winter.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said there is little risk of "overdoing it" when it comes to stimulus spending.

"Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses," Powell said. "By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste."

Even the plan offered to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin came to $1.8 trillion — more than triple what McConnell (R-KY) is willing to offer.

Trump himself has clashed with McConnell over the increased stimulus spending, which could help improve Trump's reelection chances. As Trump put it on Tuesday: "STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!"

But Pelosi slammed Trump's negotiations with Democrats over the stimulus funding in a statement to House Democrats on Tuesday.

"A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up," Pelosi said in the statement. "The American people want us to have an agreement to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy. Democrats are determined to do so!"

But since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last month, McConnell has been laser-focused on confirming Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, while declining to deliver aid to his struggling constituents.

What Republicans have included in their most recent relief package is less important than what they've left out of it.

The bill that House Democrats passed on Oct. 1 included $600 per week in unemployment benefits through February 2021, along with another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, $436 billion for state and local governments, increased spending for Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion for airline payroll spending, and more than $275 billion for education and child care.

By contrast, Senate Republicans' version of the bill would barely cover the state aid, let alone extended unemployment benefits or individual stimulus checks. While McConnell has promised liability protections for employers in his latest bill, what isn't included are employment protections for the millions of essential workers struggling in hazardous conditions, or state governments struggling under the weight of economic decline.

During a debate on Monday, McConnell laughed at his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, when she pressed him on his own responsibility for the Senate's lack of stimulus spending and the unchecked spread of the coronavirus.

As stimulus talks drag on, the stage is set for one of the biggest dustups between Trump and a Republican Party grown increasingly weary of the president's electoral outlook. Unlike Trump, McConnell doesn't seem to believe he has anything to gain from passing the life-saving stimulus bill.

"What I hear from Sen. McConnell is once again take a little piece and be satisfied," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters on Tuesday. "What I hear from president just the opposite. Can the two have them sit down and agree? Wouldn't that be a breakthrough?"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.