Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that Democrats have had no contact with Senate Republicans or the Trump administration about stimulus negotiations, just days before the GOP is planning to release their draft bill.
“We have not heard a peep from (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell or the Republicans or the administration on any proposal, even though we’ve been asking for weeks and weeks and weeks,” Schumer said on a conference call with public workers and advocates pushing for significant state and local funding – a flashpoint of the looming negotiations.
Schumer decried McConnell’s decision to draft the proposal entirely within his own conference, noting that Democratic support will be necessary for any final package to pass the Senate.
“McConnell knows from the previous bills that passed in the Senate he’s got to work across the aisle,” Schumer said.
Citing the past negotiations that produced nearly $3 trillion in emergency federal funding to try and arrest the dual economic and public health crises created by coronavirus, Schumer said that when McConnell has sought to negotiate among only Republicans, “it fails.”
Pressure is mounting for Congress and the White House to pump money back into the American economy still suffering from the pandemic as the virus resurges around the country and many of the emergency measures, including enhanced federal unemployment benefits and the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, are set to lapse in the coming weeks.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has taken a methodical approach to the next round of federal aid, in large part because his members have pushed to slow the process down as they watch how previously approved money is spent. Republicans have worked through the last two weeks to pull together the pieces of their legislation, which McConnell has repeatedly said will be focused on three primary issues: “kids, jobs and health care.”
Schumer said he has not seen the two-page summary of a central plank of the Senate GOP plan – liability protections for companies, schools and hospitals that McConnell has said must be included in any final proposal, but did tweak Republicans for its emergence. “I think it’s interesting that the first piece of the first proposal the Republicans are offering is something they negotiated with lobbyists that protects big corporations.”
The proposal, obtained by CNN, has been circulated inside the White House and among GOP senators. It would provide temporary legal protections for organizations that make reasonable efforts to comply with public health guidelines and don’t demonstrate gross negligence. Defendants would have the right to move suits to a federal court, according to the summary document, which would cover the period from December 2019 until 2024.
While Schumer didn’t lay out any red lines of his own specifically, he reiterated that Senate Democrats will push for the $3 trillion stimulus measure, known as the HEROES Act, passed by the House.
“The bottom line is we’re going to fight for the whole HEROES bill period,” Schumer said.
He told Senate Democrats on a private conference call this week there would be no negotiations without House Democrats in the room, according to a person on the call.