- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday they would not accept any partial extensions or attempt to break coronavirus relief into smaller packages.

“We cannot piecemeal this. It has an integrity. It has a oneness about meeting the needs of the American people, defeating the virus,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said.

The two top Democrats on Capitol Hill also slammed Republicans’ handling of negotiations so far, arguing the GOP is in disarray over the package.

“Now that Senate Republicans have finally woken up to the calamity in our country, they have been so divided, so disorganized, so unprepared that they have struggled to even draft a partisan proposal within their own conference,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said. “They can’t come together. Even after all this time, it appears the Republican legislative response to COVID is un-unified, un-serious, un-satisfactory.”

“They’re so divided and there’s no leadership from the president,” Mr. Schumer added.

Their comments come after the White House and Senate Republicans announced Wednesday night they had a deal on this next coronavirus package, but no proposal has been announced as of Thursday morning.

Several Republicans have broken rank over concerns about the high cost of the package — expected to exceed $1 trillion — how the party is going to address expiring boosted unemployment benefits, and funds to hard-hit state and local governments.

With the extra $600 a week unemployment benefits, as well as a few other COVID-19 provisions including eviction protection, are set to expire this month — putting pressure on lawmakers to meet those deadlines.

Republicans are concerned the supercharged unemployment benefits will incentivize some to stay out of work, but don’t want the aid to entirely lapse as lawmakers continue to negotiate on a larger package.

There were reports Wednesday that the GOP was debating a short-term extension on the $600 a week since many could agree on an exact number.

“I’d prefer we would find a solution for it,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, told reporters. “It would depend on how long that extension is for, if it is for two more weeks…that might be something I consider, but if it’s something longer than that I think we really need to focus on the solution — on the sort of fix that takes into account potential disadvantage to return to work and the fact that some have no work to return to.”

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Thursday the White House is looking at approximately 70% wage replacement.

There’s been chatter amongst GOP senators about passing a temporary unemployment benefits extension as they work out the mechanics of a final deal.

Democrats, meanwhile, are committed to extending the full $600 a week payments, but Mrs. Pelosi also wants to see what Republicans have to offer on direct payments to the public.

“I’m all for the $600 because people really need it,” she said. “But again, as I said, we have issues that relate to direct payments for people and the size of what that is and the rest. But I go to the table with the commitment to the $600.”

Though a final GOP proposal hasn’t been released, their plan is expected to include $105 billion for schools and $16 billion for testing. Republicans are also working on another round of funding for small business loans in the Paycheck Protection Program, with potential new limitations on who can apply.

Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Pelosi, however, said they couldn’t comment on any specific numbers or begin negotiating until the Republicans have a plan on paper.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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