WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a roughly $500 billion GOP coronavirus relief bill, leaving little hope for a bipartisan solution prior to the November election. But Silicon Valley legislators said Democrats had no other choice.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, told San José Spotlight the bill was entirely inadequate.
“The Senate waited four months for a bill that does nothing to avert the enormous wave of layoffs at the state and local level that economists warn will push the economy into the next low of recession,” she said. “…Democrats have offered to compromise but Republicans continue to move in the opposite direction.”
Among other provisions, the Republicans’ bill included funding for the small business loan program, $105 billion for schools and a $300 per week federal unemployment supplement. It also included a liability shield to offer businesses some protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits.
Shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to social media and condemned the Democrats for rejecting the measure.
“Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief,” he wrote on Twitter. “They blocked money for schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance and the Paycheck Protection Program. Their goal is clear: No help for American families before the election.”
But Lofgren argued the bill didn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable Americans.
“(It offered) no funds to feed hungry families who’ve lost jobs through no fault of their own,” she said. “No funds to assist renters, homeowners or landlords. No help to provide adequate funding for COVID testing and treatment. No funds to ensure Americans can vote safely in November’s election.”
The congresswoman also criticized the bill’s liability shield as a way to protect negligent employers.
Democrats are continuing to push for the Heroes Act, an approximately $3.4 trillion tax cut and spending bill the House passed in May. The bill includes housing relief, hazard pay for essential workers and nearly $1 trillion for local and state governments. It also includes a $600 weekly unemployment supplement.
Congress has a moral obligation to pass bold legislation during a pandemic, Rep. Ro Khanna told San José Spotlight after the vote. The Fremont Democrat said approximately 16 million Americans are still out of work, 40 million are at risk for being evicted and nearly 60 million have filed for unemployment.
“This is the moment to provide every American with health care, with a living wage and with the dignity to make it through this tumultuous year,” he said.
McConnell has decried the Heroes Act as a “multi-trillion-dollar socialist manifesto” and firmly defended the Republicans’ decision to scale back unemployment assistance.
“Our Democratic colleagues want to pretend it is controversial that taxpayers should not pay people more not to work than the people who do go back to work,” he previously wrote on Twitter. “The American people don’t call that a controversy. They call that common sense.”
Helen Chapman, the secretary for the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, said Thursday she was proud of Democratic lawmakers for continuing to push for more assistance for vulnerable Americans. But she also acknowledged many people were likely becoming frustrated as they wait for a relief measure to pass.
The process is taking longer than it should and people are going to fall through the cracks, she said, adding she recently watched her hairstylist struggle to pay his rent when hair salons closed down.
“I am old enough that I miss the days when Republicans and Democrats could work together on some issues,” she said. “…I am very disappointed to see that there is such a divide in this country.”
Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.