Senate GOP in no rush to pass bill to help Americans deal with coronavirus


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted the bill included 'urgent Senate priorities,' but he sent senators home instead of working on passing it.

Days after the House of Representatives and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed on an emergency bill to help Americans deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Senate Republicans have yet to take up the bill. And some are suggesting delaying doing so.

The House passed a sweeping bipartisan response bill early on Saturday, 363 to 40, after Donald Trump endorsed the legislation. Its provisions include paid sick leave for some workers, money for coronavirus testing, emergency state grants for unemployment, and increased food assistance.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stayed out of the negotiations, opted to send senators home for a three-day weekend rather than stay in town to pass it.

On Sunday night, McConnell released a statement about the "urgent Senate priorities" on his docket. He noted that once the House sends over its final version of the bill, "Senators of both sides are carefully reviewing the details and are eager to act swiftly to help American workers, families, and small businesses navigate this challenging time."

But after ceding the negotiations to the House and Trump administration, some in his caucus suggested they would not back the agreement and wanted to slow down the process.

"We don't want to cause further economic harm by passing bad legislation," announced Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Saturday. "I hope the Senate will approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm — or, if it won't, pass nothing at all."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also opposed the House bill, tweeting Monday that it "doesn't go far enough and it doesn't go fast enough."

Others seem to think the crisis is little more than a joke. Last week, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was asked by a reporter about what precautions he was taking to avoid coronavirus exposure. He said he was taking none and asked, "Wanna shake hands?"

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) mocked colleagues who urged immediate action. When Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) proposed the Senate immediately reconvene to deal with the bill on Saturday, Cornyn replied, "Let me know when you get back from Hawaii." (Schatz was in Washington, D.C.)

When Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin suggested quickly passing the bill through unanimous consent so some Senators could avoid flying to back Washington, Cornyn dismissed this as "conflicting advice."

He also tweeted a photo of a bottle of Corona beer on Saturday, saying, "Be smart; don't panic. We will get us through this."

Trump has so far been silent on the Senate's inaction. But last week, he criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not moving quickly enough, tweeting on Tuesday, "Nancy Pelosi just said, 'I don't know if we can be ready this week.' In other words, it's off to vacation for the Do Nothing Democrats. That's been the story with them for 1 1/2 years!"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.