Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to his caucus Thursday morning warning that Republicans’ coronavirus plan is “emaciated” and accused the GOP of trying to “check the box” on another stimulus bill, statements that appear to throw water on attempts to revive negotiations that fell apart last month.
After lawmakers failed to pass legislation ahead of the August recess, there was hope that there could be some sort of breakthrough in negotiations once they returned to Washington, D.C. But Schumer, D-N.Y., in the letter to his Democratic colleagues slammed comments by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about a potential “skinny” coronavirus proposal which would cost about $1 trillion. Schumer and Democrats started their negotiations at the $3 trillion price tag of the bill House Democrats passed earlier this year, but later said they would be willing to come down to $2 trillion, something Republicans including McConnell and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have not been receptive to.
“I was hopeful that with the highest unemployment since the Great Depression and the worst public health crisis since 1918, we could make progress in our negotiations with the White House during the month of August,” Schumer wrote. “But President Trump, led by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, has embraced a hardline view that the federal government should be doing less, not more, during this time of national crisis.”
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The minority leader added: “Based on their self-described lack of urgency, the continued division of their caucus, and this most recent inadequate proposal, it is clear Republicans are trying to ‘check the box’ and give the appearance of action rather than actually meet the truly profound needs of the American people.”
On the proposal that McConnell called “narrow” and other Republicans have referred to as “targeted,” Schumer said it’s “completely inadequate.”
“Republicans may call their proposal ‘skinny,’ but it would be more appropriate to call it ’emaciated,'” he said. “Their proposal appears to be completely inadequate and, by every measure, fails to meet the needs of the American people.”
McConnell, for his part, has said that Democrats are the ones unwilling to cooperate and blamed politics for the discord between the parties.
“[W]e’re at a stalemate,” the majority leader said. “So I don’t know whether we’re going to get another package here in the next few weeks or not. But we’re giving it our best.”
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Republicans introduced their $1 trillion proposal for a stimulus bill earlier this summer, but some within their caucus saw it as including far too much spending, especially for an opening offer up for negotiation as McConnell had characterized it. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said a GOP lunch at which the proposal was discussed could have been “the Bernie Bros, or progressive caucus.”
Last week, after little to no communication during August, Meadows had a call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., which ended with Meadows saying to the press that Pelosi would prefer to have no legislation than a $1.3 trillion offer he said he made on the call.
“We brought up the number. I had a conversation with Speaker Pelosi. And even on her $2.2 trillion counteroffer she can’t tell the American people nor me what is in that,” Meadows said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “She puts forth a number, suggests that she came down, and yet she’s willing to turn down $1.3 trillion of help that goes to the American people because she would rather them have nothing than to give way on what her fantasy might be.”
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The lack of action from Congress has been frustrating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, leading some Republicans to believe they could get members behind the more limited McConnell proposal. Schumer has given no indication he would be willing to get behind such a proposal that would jettison many of the priorities Democrats included in their $3 trillion bill earlier this year. But some potentially vulnerable House Democrats indicated in May that they would like to see a more narrow coronavirus stimulus.
“People in western Pennsylvania and all over the country have sacrificed a lot during this crisis. They expect us to put politics aside, work together, and focus on defeating the coronavirus.” Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., said in May following the House bill’s passage. Lamb’s special election victory in 2018 and subsequent reelection was considered a major victory for Democrats, though Pennsylvania has since redrawn its congressional districts.
Lamb added: “This bill is not focused, it was rushed to a vote too fast, and it doesn’t help us accomplish that core mission.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Caroline McKee, Evie Fordham and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.