WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Senate Republicans planned to release their coronavirus relief plan Thursday but after hours of closed-door talks, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, announced they will introduce their opening offer Monday.
McConnell said the package will focus on “kids, jobs and healthcare.”
The $600 weekly unemployment benefit, which expires this weekend, has been one of the main sticking points between parties.
“We’re not going to pay people more to stay home than to work,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Mnuchin said President Trump supports a wage replacement percentage instead of a flat amount, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants another $600 dollar commitment.
“Why do they have to make a fuss over $600, which means a lot to many working families,” Pelosi said.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-MS, called the process still “very fluid” and is still pushing to include priorities she said are important to her home state.
“As new vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 are being tested and developed, the affordability of prescription drugs is more important than ever,” Hyde-Smith said. “Just as much as we need a vaccine or treatment to be discovered, we also need it to be affordable to Americans if we are going to get on the other side of this pandemic.”
On top of legislation to lower prescription drug costs, Hyde-Smith is also sponsoring a bill that would allow rural hospitals to take advantage of the small business loans in the CARES Act.
“To make sure they have what they need to address this COVID-19 issue for those who are suffering from it,” she said.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA, is also pushing to include more flexibility in CARES Act funding, specifically for state operating expenses unrelated to the pandemic.
“For months, state and local governments have been working under the weight of an incredible health crisis,” Kennedy said. “Giving those governments the flexibility to help their communities weather this pandemic by using money they already have is a no-brainer.”
The House passed their version of coronavirus relief more than two months ago. Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, blame Republicans for the gridlock.
“They know the president has no leadership,” Schumer said. “They’re afraid to buck him on anything.”
Both parties want to include money for testing to help Americans return to school and work safely, but that dollar amount is still up for debate, too.