Senate Republicans Unveil Stimulus Proposal. Here’s What You Need to Know
- Senate Republicans on Monday announced the $1 trillion HEALS Act, their version of a coronavirus relief bill.
- Among other things, the bill includes cutting unemployment to $200 a week until October, another stimulus check, school and health funding, and protections for businesses.
- The bill does not include any money to state and local governments or any assistance to renters.
- Democrats have opposed many provisions of the bill, setting everyone up for a battle just days before unemployment insurance expires and two weeks before Congress goes on recess.
Senate Republicans Announce HEALS Act
Following months of anticipation, Senate Republicans on Monday officially rolled out their long-awaited coronavirus relief bill proposal, the $1 trillion HEALS Act.
The proposal comes after weeks of infighting between Senate Republicans, as well as the White House, over what to put in the bill. It also comes nearly five months after the first stimulus bill, the CARES Act, was signed into law in March.
While the Democrat-led House passed its own $3 trillion stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, in early May, Senate Republicans wanted to wait to pass more coronavirus relief legislation, arguing that another was not yet needed and that the reopenings would help the economy.
Now, with widespread coronavirus spikes leading to more closures and many Americans hurting, Senate Republicans are down to the wire to pass a new coronavirus relief bill as key parts of the CARES Act are set to expire—and some already have.
Now that Republicans have hashed out a proposal, they still have to negotiate a bill with the Senate Democrats that could viably be passed by the House, and there are already some major differences between the Republican plan and what the Democrats want.
Here’s what you need to know about the major provisions in this proposal, how they measure up to Democrat proposals, what might happen moving forward, and what all of this means for the American people.
Likely the biggest logjam between the two parties is the question of federal unemployment benefits.
Under the first stimulus bill, all Americans who filed for unemployment got an additional $600 each week from the federal government on top of the money they were receiving from state unemployment. That extra $600 kept many people afloat, especially because normal unemployment in most states covers less than half of what a worker would normally make on the job.
The main reason this has become such a hot-button issue is because those federal benefits are set to expire in less than a week. While Democrats want to extend the $600, Republicans have argued that some people are making more off unemployment than they would at their jobs.
Under the current version of the HEALS Act, the federal government would provide a $200 a week for each unemployed worker until October. In that time, states would be required to switch over to the new system where unemployed workers would get 70% of the wages they made before.
If states cannot implement that totally new system by Oct. 5, they can request a waiver to continue the $200 for another two months.
Numerous experts have warned that states are already overwhelmed with unemployment requests and were already having trouble paying out the flat $600. As a result, they would really struggle with a major overhaul of their current system that also requires them to implement a difficult and very specific program.
Democrats have already rejected the idea of changing the state distribution method, but it’s also not their only issue.
While a state program that gives people 70% of the wages they made before they were unemployed would, in many cases, come out to more than $200 a week, the bill, as is, would cap those payments at $500.
Notably, according to Ernie Tedeschi, an economist in the Treasury Department under Obama who spoke to The Washington Post, that means that workers in some states with low unemployment benefits who earn just $50,000 a year would hit the cap and not get the full 70% of their previous income.
In other words, no matter which way you cut it, the Senate GOP’s proposal would be a massive cut to the unemployment benefits that 30 million people—or nearly one out of every five American workers—are currently receiving.
Evictions, Funds for State & Local Governments, & Other Points of Contention
There are several other major issues between the two parties over what is in the Senate proposal—and even more significantly, what’s not.
Another one of the biggest problems for Democrats is that Republicans have explicitly said that they will not give any new money to state and local governments. Their plan does give those governments more flexibility in using the $150 billion fund approved under the last stimulus package, but it still differs significantly from the Democrats, who have long pushed for more funding.
The HEROES Act allocated $1 trillion alone to state and local governments.
Another notable item not in the plan is an extension on the federal evictions ban. That ban, known as the eviction moratorium, was signed into law under the first coronavirus relief bill and made it illegal for landlords who own buildings and homes with federal mortgages to evict renters.
That ban, which applied to nearly a third of all American renters, expired at midnight on Friday.
Some states and cities have put their own eviction bans in place, but with the eviction ban ending, millions risk losing their homes during a pandemic.
But Republicans have nothing to address that or any other kind of relief for America’s renters. This will likely be a problem for Democrats, who have proposed not only expanding the moratorium beyond the federal level, but also extending it until next March.
Another major element of the Senate’s plan is a five-year liability shield, which would protect businesses, schools, non-profits, medical facilities, and other organizations from being sued by their employees if they contracted coronavirus on the job.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said multiple times that he will not pass a coronavirus relief bill without this provision, but Democrats have also expressed a strong desire to keep the liability provision out of the bill.
Democrats have argued that in addition to prioritizing corporate interests, the protections it would allow businesses to mistreat their workers and put them in dangerous positions—a point they will likely push given the fact that hazard pay for essential workers was also left out of the Republican bill.
Stimulus Checks, School Funding, & Other Points of Agreement
There are also some places where the Republicans and the Democrats agree, at least in principle.
For example, both have said they want another round of the $1,200 stimulus checks. Under the Republican plan, the checks would go out following the same formula as before—meaning the same people who got them the first time would get them again—though notably, it also has more restrictions on the checks being sent to prisoners and dead people.
The Republican bill also changes the eligibility for the extra $500 per each child dependent, so that families with dependents over 17 years old can get the money, unlike last time, which capped the extra payment at kids 16 and under.
The Democrats plan is basically the same, except that under the package passed by the House, dependents would also receive $1,200.
There is also bipartisan support for another round of support for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the Republican plan, there would be another wave of PPP that better targets small businesses, which is something Dems also seem on board with too.
Both sides of the aisle also agree that more there needs to be an expansion of funding for schools and health, though they have each proposed different amounts. In terms of schools, The GOP plan includes $105 billion for K-12 and higher education.
While the House bill allocated a similar amount at $100 billion, Senate Democrats have said they want $430 billion for schools.
Regarding healthcare, Republicans have proposed $16 billion for expanding testing and contact tracing and $26 billion for vaccine development and distribution, but it is unclear how much Dems want, especially because the House bill allocated $75 billion for the same areas.
Despite certain bipartisan measures, Republicans and Democrats are clearly set up for a battle.
While rolling out his proposal Monday, McConnell appeared to hit on that note, calling on his Democratic colleagues to “put aside partisan stonewalling,” and “rediscover the sense of urgency that got the CARES Act across the finish line.”
Democrats, for their part, have slammed the Republicans for waiting so long to give them a bill they knew they would have objections too.
While speaking to reporters Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) criticized Republican bill, calling it a “half-hearted, half-baked legislative proposal,” and “too little, too late.”
“The lack of any urgency, understanding, and empathy for people who need help from Senate Republicans has led us to a very precarious moment,” he said, before specifically taking aim at the unemployment proposal.
“The Republican proposal on unemployment benefits, simply put, is unworkable,” he added. “The idea that we need to drastically reduce these benefits because workers will stay home otherwise is greatly exaggerated.”
Pelosi also made similar remarks after a meeting she had yesterday with top White House officials, where both she and Schumer said that there is still a big gap between Democrats and Republicans.
But that’s not the only gap. There are also divisions among the Senate Republicans, many of whom do not want another coronavirus relief package at all.
Already, some major Republicans have said they will vote against the bill, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).
“There is significant resistance to yet another trillion dollars,” he said Monday.“As it stands now, I think it’s likely that you’ll see a number of Republicans in opposition to this bill and expressing serious concerns.”
Even before the bill was officially rolled out, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.) also made a similar prediction on Sunday.
“Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase 4 package, that’s just a fact,” he told Fox News.
Clearly, there is a long road ahead, but notably, there is not much time. In addition to unemployment benefits expiring at the end of this week, Congress is also scheduled to take a recess starting Aug. 7. That gives them just two weeks to figure everything out.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (NPR)
Trump Lawyer Notes Indicate Former President May Have Obstructed Justice in Mar-a-Lago Documents Probe
The notes add to a series of recent reports that seem to paint a picture of possible obstruction.
Corcoran’s Notes on Mar-a-Lago
Prosecutors have 50 pages of notes from Donald Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran that show the former president was explicitly told he could not keep any more classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return, according to a new report by The Guardian.
The notes, which were disclosed by three people familiar with the matter, present new evidence that indicates Trump obstructed justice in the investigation into classified documents he improperly kept at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
In June, Corcoran found around 40 classified documents in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago while complying with the initial subpoena. The attorney told the Justice Department that no additional documents were on the property.
In August, however, the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago and discovered about 100 more.
The Guardian’s report is significant because it adds a piece to the puzzle prosecutors are trying to put together: whether Trump obstructed justice when he failed to comply with the subpoena by refusing to return all the documents he had or even trying to hide them intentionally.
As the outlet noted, prosecutors have been “fixated” on Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, since he told them that the former president directed him to move boxes out of the storage room before and after the subpoena. His actions were also captured on surveillance footage.
The sources familiar with Corcoran’s notes said the pages revealed that both Trump and the Nauta “had unusually detailed knowledge of the botched subpoena response, including where Corcoran intended to search and not search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as when Corcoran was actually doing his search.”
At one point, Corcoran allegedly noted how he had told the Nauta about the subpoena prior to his search for the documents because the lawyer needed him to unlock the storage room, showing how closely involved the valet was from the get-go.
Corcoran further stated that Nauta had even offered to help go through the boxes, but the attorney declined. Beyond that, the report also asserted that the notes “suggested to prosecutors that there were times when the storage room might have been left unattended while the search for classified documents was ongoing.”
Adding to the Evidence
If real, Corcoran’s notes are very damning, especially considering other recent reports concerning Trump’s possible efforts to obstruct the documents probe.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Corcoran had testified before a grand jury that multiple Trump employees told him the Mar-a-Lago storage room was the only place the documents were kept.
“Although Mr. Corcoran testified that Mr. Trump did not personally convey that false information, his testimony hardly absolved the former president,” the outlet reported, referencing people with knowledge of the matter.
“Mr. Corcoran also recounted to the grand jury how Mr. Trump did not tell his lawyers of any other locations where the documents were stored, which may have effectively misled the legal team.”
Additionally, the only reason that Corcoran handed over these notes was that he was under court order to do so. Corcoran had refused to turn the materials over, citing attorney-client privilege.
A federal judge rejected that claim on the grounds that there was reason to believe a lawyer’s advice or services were used to further a crime — meaning prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to prove Trump may have acted criminally.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (Vanity Fair)
Homeless Men Promised Money to Pose as Veterans in Anti-Immigrant Scheme, Sources Allege
New York State Attorney General Letitia James said she is reviewing whether to launch a formal investigation into the ruse.
A story that was spread by right-wing media about homeless veterans getting evicted from their hotel rooms to make way for asylum seekers has turned out to be false, according to numerous sources.
Early this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan to bus some migrants to hotels in neighboring counties, where they would stay for several months.
Orange County and Rockland County filed lawsuits to block the move, and the state supreme court granted both temporary restraining orders, but many migrants had already arrived. To make room for the incoming migrants, one hotel in Orange County forced at least 15 homeless veterans to leave, media reported at the time.
But several homeless men told local outlets they had allegedly been offered payment if they posed as military veterans staying at the hotel.
Sharon Toney-Finch, head of Yerik Israel Toney Foundation (YIT), a nonprofit that houses the homeless, allegedly masterminded the scheme.
Her associates allegedly rounded up 15 homeless men at a shelter and promised them as much as $200 each if they spoke with a local politician about homelessness. But they told reporters that when they met Toney-Finch at a diner, she presented her real plan. They would speak to a local chamber of commerce instead, the men recalled, and if they weren’t comfortable with telling the lie, Toney-Finch instructed them to say they had PTSD and couldn’t speak.
After fulfilling their end of the bargain, however, they said she never paid them the cash they were promised.
Several of them described the ordeal to media outlets, and reporters soon poked more holes in the story.
The Times Union published a copy of a credit card receipt that purportedly showed a payment of more than $37,000 for rooms at the Crossroads Hotel for the unhoused veterans alongside a copy of what appears to be Toney-Finch’s credit card.
But a graphics expert who examined the documents said the receipt appeared to have been “altered with smudges behind the darker type and [had] different fonts,” according to Mid Hudson News.
A hotel manager also told the outlet he could not find any record of the transaction, and there were no veterans at the hotel and nobody was kicked out.
Local Republican state assembly member Brian Maher, who previously reacted to the fake story with outrage, told The Times Union he felt “devastated and disheartened” when he learned that he was duped.
“She alluded to the fact that, ‘Maybe it’s not exactly how I said it was,’” Maher recalled, describing a conversation with Toney-Finch. “This is something I believe hurt a lot of people.”
New York State Attorney General Leticia James is reportedly reviewing the incident to determine if a formal investigation is warranted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Lawmakers Have 10 Days to Reach Debt Deal: Here’s How Failure Would Impact Americans
In addition to causing massive disruptions to the U.S. economy and global markets, failure to prevent a debt default could seriously harm Social Security and Medicare recipients, veterans, federal workers, and many more Americans.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) met Monday to discuss ongoing debt ceiling negotiations as the deadline to reach an agreement looms nearer and nearer.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has repeatedly said that June 1 is the “hard deadline” by which the debt ceiling must be raised to prevent the U.S. from defaulting for the first time in history. Such a failure could trigger a recession and send global markets into complete disarray.
Despite the ticking doomsday clock, Republicans and Democrats have failed to reach any agreement, remaining firm in the lines they have drawn.
Republicans have said they will support any debt deal until Biden agrees to massive spending cuts that would significantly roll back much of his domestic agenda. Biden has refused to cave, and Democratic negotiators instead proposed a plan to freeze but not reduce federal spending in the next fiscal year.
Republicans rejected that plan Friday, abruptly ending negotiations. While talks briefly restarted later the same evening, they stalled again, prompting Biden — who was at a G7 summit in Japan — to cut his trip short and head home to take a hand in the talks.
The president and the House Speaker did seem to express some tentative optimism after sharing a call Sunday where they set the meeting.
In comments to reporters, McCarthy said that Biden: “walked through some of the things that he’s still looking at, he’s hearing from his members; I walked through things I’m looking at. I felt that part was productive. But look — there’s no agreement. We’re still apart.”
Biden also echoed that, telling reporters late Sunday night that the call “went well” — a marked shift from comments he made at the summit over the weekend, where he slammed House Republicans.
“I can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t force a default,” he said at one point. Biden also once again raised the possibility of invoking the 14th Amendment to declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional because of a clause that requires the U.S. to pay its debts.
At the summit, the president asserted that he had the “authority” to take such a step but reiterated that this is a last resort option.
Impacts on the American People
In addition to having a catastrophic effect on the U.S. economy and global markets, failing to reach the debt ceiling would also seriously impact many everyday Americans.
“The most drastic impact might be a pause in regular federal payments to tens of millions of American families, including seniors on Medicare and Social Security and people relying on food stamps,” The Washington Post explained.
Specifically, failure to raise the debt ceiling could delay essential federal payments to tens of millions of Americans who rely on them for their livelihoods. This includes the over 60 million people — mostly seniors — who receive monthly Social Security payments, as well as a similar number of Medicaid recipients.
Those folks would be forced to miss out on the $25 billion in Social Security benefits and $47 billion for Medicare providers the government is scheduled to pay in early June.
The veterans would be affected, as the government is supposed to pay out $12 billion in benefits on June 1 — the same day as the expected default.
Many of the millions of federal employees could also be placed in limbo if the federal government is unable to pay the $4 billion in salaries it needs by June 9. That situation could further harm many essential workers like military personnel, food safety inspectors, and air traffic controllers, among others.