Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that the Senate will not be taking a scheduled recess next week in order to provide more time to work out bipartisan coronavirus legislation.
“Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week,” McConnell tweeted.
Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week. I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 12, 2020
“I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong,” he added.
Multiple Republican senators, including John Barrasso of Wyoming, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Roy Blunt of Missouri called for the move, The Hill reported.
The House is slated to vote on new coronavirus legislation, backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday.
According to a news release from the speaker’s office, “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act” includes, free coronavirus testing; paid emergency leave (with 14 days paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave); “enhanced unemployment insurance” benefits; expansion of food stamps, student meal and seniors nutrition programs; and increased funding to Medicaid.
At a news conference on Thursday morning, Pelosi said House Democrats are actively negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“[H]e had some suggestions. All very reasonable,” she said. “I don’t think that any of them is a — would prevent us from moving forward with the bill.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Thursday Pelosi’s bill has some “major problems.”
One issue McCarthy identified was the paid family leave proposal, noting it has no sunset provision and no exemptions.
This means the unfunded mandate on businesses would go on in perpetuity, with no relation to the coronavirus outbreak.
Other problems McCarthy identified include changes to the unemployment benefits program.
The California congressman argued that with the nation experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, the focus should be on keeping people in their jobs.
The Republicans are proposing an employee retention tax credit to incentivize companies not to lay off or fire workers due to the impact of the coronavirus.
McCarthy further highlighted there has been no scoring for Pelosi’s bill, meaning she is asking members to sign an open-ended check.
McConnell panned the bill in a speech from the Senate floor Thursday, calling it an “ideological wish list.”
“Unfortunately, it appears at this hour that the Speaker and House Democrats instead chose to produce an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances,” McConnell said.
“One is reminded of the famous comment from President Obama’s first chief of staff: ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,’” he added.
McConnell echoed McCarthy’s concern about the paid sick leave mandate the bill places on businesses, without exemptions.
The majority leader argued the provision could put “thousands of small businesses at risk,” due to their inability to afford the mandate.
Pelosi has not committed to keeping the House in session next week after voting on its coronavirus legislation.
“Well, we’re doing one step at a time,” she said.
“I’m not saying anything. We are here to pass a bill. When we pass a bill, we’ll make a judgement about what comes next.”
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