Senate under growing pressure to reach coronavirus relief deal
McConnell will announce votes this week on proposals to extend federal unemployment benefits as a lower level than the $600-per-week payment that ended July 31, likely including a proposal from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would renew enhanced unemployment at 66 percent of lost wages, or $200 per week. Democrats rejected both Johnson’s bill and a proposal by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) to extend the $600 payment for one week, saying they refuse to negotiate in a “piecemeal” process.
Meadows floated several options for a longer extension of the $600 payment as part of a so-called “skinny” plan last week, only to have Pelosi and Schumer say no.
GOP aides said additional votes on other Republican initiatives will happen as well. McConnell will use a “shell bill” approved Thursday by the Senate as the vehicle for the policy votes.
Senate Republicans and committee aides complain that Schumer is blocking any discussions between rank-and-file senators at the committee level. And a “staff meeting” on Sunday between the two sides only included aides to Meadows and Mnuchin, not any Senate Republican staffers.
“Leader Schumer clearly does not want his caucus negotiating with Republicans like they did with the Cares Act,’ said a Senate GOP aide. “By shutting out his own members, he’s stifling the bipartisanship that made the Cares process so successful. He’s allowing election-year politics to dominate and it’s hurting any progress on a deal.”
But Democrats argue that without an established negotiating framework, talks between members are pointless. And they say negotiations are different this time around given that the House already passed in May the nearly $3.5 trillion Heroes Act, which Democrats are using as their starting point.
“Democrats are eager to begin committee-level talks, but the Senate Republicans are still in such disarray so it’s unclear what their position is,” said a Senate Democratic leadership aide. “Furthermore, they haven’t been authorized to negotiate by the White House. Once a framework is agreed to by the White House and Democrats, the committees in both the House and Senate will work on the details. “
The Senate is scheduled to leave for August recess at the end of the week, but that could be delayed if neither side is able to reach some type of deal.