McCarthy blames Democrats for delaying virus relief they already passed

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says there won't be a bill ready before the $600 of federal unemployment help ends next week.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is already blaming Democrats for delaying a coronavirus relief bill that has yet to be finalized, even as a relief bill passed by the Democrat-led House is collecting dust in the GOP-led Senate.

"I envision that this bill doesn't get done by the end of July," McCarthy said Tuesday morning during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," referring to a different coronavirus relief bill Congress hopes to pass in the coming weeks. Some provisions of the previous relief bill — including an additional $600 in weekly unemployment assistance — expire at the end of the month.

McCarthy alleged that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be a roadblock to legislation moving forward despite the fact that the House passed a new coronavirus relief package in May. As of Tuesday, Republicans in Congress had not unveiled a new coronavirus relief bill, nor had the GOP-led Senate engaged in negotiations over the bill passed by the House.

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"We've watched Nancy Pelosi time and again hold up when we were going for small business PPP," McCarthy said, referring to a loan program to help businesses during this recession. "She held up our CARES bill. She held up the renewing of funding for it." (The CARES Act was the coronavirus relief package signed into law in late March with provisions set to expire at the end of July.)

McCarthy said Pelosi will be "holding it up, trying to get something else into the bill," adding that "we're probably in the first week of August" before a final bill passes.

McCarthy dismissed many of the provisions of the relief package passed by the House, saying: "We know what the Democrats passed in the House — more than $3 trillion. But much of that — and one example is, they talk about cannabis more than they talk about jobs in that bill — a lot of that were things that, all they wanted prior to COVID even existing — election reform and others."

The focus of the legislation should be "what helps not only schools but small businesses with liability protection," McCarthy insisted. Republicans, including McConnell and Trump, have championed provisions to shield businesses from liability if workers contract the coronavirus after being forced back to work, demanding such provisions be part of the final bill to come out of Congress.

"The challenge will be: Does the Democrats even want to have a bill?" McCarthy asked, referring to Senate Democrats.

The coronavirus relief bill passed by the House in May would provide nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, and an extension of the $600 in enhanced unemployment benefits included in the previous package, according to a summary issued by the House Appropriations Committee.

When the bill was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even consider it, saying there was no "urgency" to move forward with it. Other Republicans told the Associated Press that the bill was filled with Democratic "pet projects."

McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have vocally opposed extending the unemployment benefit.

"July the 31st is when this expires and I promise you, over our dead bodies, this will get reauthorized," Graham said about the unemployment assistance at an event in South Carolina in late April.

McCarthy on Tuesday did not mention that McConnell has refused to hold a vote on the House relief bill for 67 days.

And contrary to McCarthy's claims, Democrats made clear months ago that they would like a bill to move forward.

On June 29, more than a month after the House passed the relief bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Pelosi wrote McConnell a letter asking him to work on a coronavirus relief package.

"Though Democrats have repeatedly requested to enter into bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on additional legislation with you, such conversations have not happened in over two months," the pair wrote.

If Republican delays allow the unemployment benefit to expire, there will be dire consequences, at least one economist warned.

Ending the benefits would cause "massive human suffering," Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said last week. Without the assistance, "unemployed people won't be able to buy ... goods, and the people who produce those goods and services will lose their jobs."

More than 25 million Americans will lose the additional unemployment assistance if Congress does not extend the provision, CNBC reported.

The National Employment Law Project's senior policy analyst, Michelle Evermore, told CNBC that the loss of assistance will "be a real shock to people, especially in states like Arizona, where the maximum benefit is $240 a week."

The loss of the added income will have "a multiplier effect on the whole economy," Evermore said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.