Senate Republicans unveiled their coronavirus relief package Monday with an estimated price tag of $1 trillion, but the plan has already received pushback from top Democrats.
After several days of disagreement between the White House and Senate Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the final GOP legislation is “realistic,” and leaders hope to reach a bipartisan deal before the August recess—a push that’ll be difficult to achieve since both Republicans and Democrats have polarized views on the bill.
“We think it is about $1 trillion, and we’ve allocated what we think makes the most sense for the country at this particular time,” McConnell told reporters, according to The Hill.
Within the $1 trillion package, Republicans covered a number of measures, including funds for testing, schools, loans for businesses and another round of stimulus checks.
“The American people need more help,” McConnell said on the Senate floor when he introduced the plan. “They need it to be comprehensive. And they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads.”
McConnell hinted in recent weeks some of the provisions that were detailed in the final legislation, such as $16 billion in allocated funds for testing and $105 billion for schools.
The measure also includes a five-year liability shield that provides coronavirus-related protections through October 1, 2024 for businesses, schools and hotels that don’t exhibit “willful misconduct or grossly negligent behavior,” according to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). Instead, they must comply with public health guidelines to receive shielded benefits.
Citizens making $75,000 per year or less, or those that file $150,000 for married couples, will receive another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, a similar provision that was a part of the CARES Act passed in March. The direct payment gets smaller as the single-filer salary reaches $99,000, which is the cap for receiving this coronavirus relief benefit.
The $600 weekly unemployment bonuses established by the CARES Act are set to expire at the end of the week. Republicans included an extension of these jobless benefits, decreasing the amount to $200 per week. The payments will continue through September and once October hits, benefits would transition to be 70 percent of an individual’s lost wages—with a cap at $500 per week.
Businesses will also be able to apply for another round of forgivable loans in the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created under the CARES Act. The Republican version of the program requires small businesses that apply show a 50 percent drop in revenue and have at most 300 employees—a 200-employee difference than the same program outlined in March.
The package also has—in one of the more controversial provisions—$1.75 billion earmarked for “the design and construction of a Washington, DC headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to a section of the legislation.
“I don’t know. That makes no sense to me,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters, referring to the FBI-construction allocated funds.
McConnell echoed Graham’s concerns, saying that he’s “opposed to non-germane amendments” like “funding for the FBI building,” the Kentucky senator told reporters Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) referred to the GOP bill as a “weak, piecemeal proposal,” after House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package in May.
“Two and a half months after Democrats delivered the solutions to defeating the virus and safely reopening the country in The Heroes Act, the Senate GOP has now come back with a weak, piecemeal proposal that will only prolong the suffering for millions of workers and families across America,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a joint statement Tuesday.
“Catastrophe is looming, and until Senate Republicans get serious, they must answer to every hungry child, every family that cannot make rent, every worker being denied their UI for their delays. Democrats remain ready to work with Republicans on real solutions to bring immediate relief and save lives and livelihoods,” the Democrats wrote.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.