The Senate is moving into a week-long recess on Memorial Day without introducing new coronavirus stimulus measures.
While the House last week approved a stimulus round of $ 3 trillion, Senate Republicans rejected the legislation and have not yet offered their own alternative. The recess, previously planned, comes as top Republicans like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy question the urgency of additional funding and are concerned about public debt.
“I don’t see the need at the moment”, McCarthy told CNN on Tuesday. McConnell was more careful, but was hesitant as well. “We will discuss a way forward in the coming weeks,” he said the same day.
Their views reflect those of many Republicans – although the party is somewhat divided – even if the economic impact of the coronavirus continues to worsen: as of this week, more than 38 million U.S. workers have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began.
“This is the biggest shock we’ve seen in our memory, and the question looms in the air,” Is it enough? Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned during a Senate hearing on May 19.
However, some Republicans seem content to wait and see how existing aid and other economic indicators will develop. “Before we rush and do another expense account, let’s get some of this stuff to work,” Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said at the hearing.
Some Republicans are trying to print new bills
A slew of Republican lawmakers are currently trying to put the brakes on new stimulus accounts, while workers and businesses are still facing heavy financial pressures. The extent of the economic downturn so far is clear: demand from food banks has increased enormously in recent months, more than 100,000 small businesses are permanently closed and companies in various industries continue to impose layoffs.
States and cities have not received additional federal support since the CARES Act, even though they face cuts to vital programs while revenues from sales and income taxes fall.
Republicans say their unwillingness to pass more legislation stems from a desire to see previously approved aid continue to work. “The problem is that we don’t even have all the money out the door yet,” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) told Politico.
While some programs are still in progress – such as a medium-sized rescue fund managed by the Federal Reserve – others, such as an extension of the unemployment insurance program, are already underway. And the need for more support is urgent: comprehensive pandemic unemployment insurance, for example, is due to sunset at the end of July.
Some GOP members insist on more, although there is not yet a clear consensus on what that looks like, CNN reported. In one case, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) backed a federal salary guarantee plan, while Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) released a proposal aimed at providing danger money to front-line workers. Legislators such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) have also expressed interest in another bill that would also include infrastructure spending.
What is next
Although Republicans are even reluctant to move forward with new stimulus efforts quickly McConnell has previously admitted that probably more money for cities and states should be approved. So while legislators are leaving the Capitol this week without making much progress, an additional measure is expected to be taken later.
McConnell’s main priority for that bill so far has been to include liability protection for companies that can be sued by customers and employees after the pandemic. Blunt told CNN that before July 4 – more than a month later – the Senate can submit a bill “optimistic”.
In the short term, the Senate will be out for a break all week, on Monday, June 1. And until Republicans commit to meaningful negotiations with Democrats on the next package, the country is in an economic limbo.