WASHINGTON ― Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that Democrats are preparing a relief bill totaling at least $750 billion in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak that is battering the nation.
Schumer said the proposal, which he plans to unveil in detail on Tuesday, would get money into the hands of the American people and include federal funding to fight the spread of the disease.
“We will need big, bold, urgent federal action to deal with this crisis,” Schumer said in a statement. “The kinds of targeted measures we are putting together will mainline money into the economy and directly into the hands of families that need it most.”
The plan includes measures that would boost hospital capacity, unemployment insurance, affordability of coronavirus treatments, forbearance of all federal loans, small business assistance, child care, remote learning, food delivery and public transportation costs, among other provisions.
Schumer said the bill would “ensure our medical professionals have all the resources – including physical space and equipment – they need to provide treatment and keep Americans safe, among other people-focused initiatives.”
The proposal represents the opening bid from Democrats for a larger federal response to the crisis. However, what the package ultimately looks like will depend on Senate Republicans, who control the chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that the Senate will take steps to assist Americans facing financial challenges, secure the economy, and bolster the nation’s health care system.
“The Senate stands with you. We stand with American workers and families,” McConnell said in a speech on the floor, acknowledging the many Americans across the country who are unable to telework to help fight the spread of the disease.
The Kentucky Republican did not take a stance on more modest legislation the House passed last week that included provisions to stem the financial fallout for families affected by the spread of the virus, including instituting paid sick leave for some employees. He said the Senate would consider the bill when the House formally transmits it, something that is expected later on Monday after some last-minute changes.
“We cannot consider the legislation until we get it,” McConnell said, adding that the bill “can only be the beginning” of the government’s response to the crisis.
Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about the House bill, however, particularly with its provisions regarding paid sick leave. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), for example, said the way the bill would reimburse businesses for the cost of sick leave ― via tax credits issued by the government ― “could take too long to get to small businesses that are struggling now to keep their doors open.”
Other Republicans floated more urgent and direct ways to get money into the hands of people suffering from the economic effects of the virus. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Monday that he supported the House bill, even as he urged further action by the Senate, like sending all adult Americans a $1,000 check. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also endorsed giving Americans “cash stipends.” However, he warned the House bill didn’t go far enough and suggested he wanted to see changes before he got on board.
Asked about the House bill during a press conference at the White House, President Donald Trump suggested broadening paid sick leave to employers with more than 500 employees ― something House Republicans and his own treasury secretary, who helped negotiate the bill, have opposed.
“I think they may make it even better,” Trump said Monday of the Senate’s potential changes to the bill.
If the Senate does decide to make changes to the House bill, that could significantly delay its passage. That’s why Democrats are calling on Republicans to focus on additional measures after the House bill has been signed into law.
“The Senate should take up this bill and pass it immediately by consent today,” Schumer said Monday in a speech on the floor.
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