Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate will consider a second stimulus package when it returns from a summer break in mid-July as the American people continue to deal with the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I said back in March we would take another look at this … probably in July … take a snapshot of where we are, both on the healthy front and the economic recovery front, and decide at that point what needs to be done further,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters at a news conference following the Senate Republicans policy luncheon Tuesday.
The Senate will recess Friday and return July 20, pushing the consideration of a stimulus package until after then.
They will have roughly two weeks to pass any legislation before taking off again for a recess that is scheduled to run from Aug. 10-Sept. 7.
While not giving specific details, McConnell said any bill the Senate takes up will be aimed at “kids, jobs, and healthcare,” in addition to protection against lawsuits anyone may bring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Any bill that passes the Senate will have liability protections in it,” McConnell said. “This is liability protections for everyone… everybody who interacted with this pandemic. Unless you’re grossly negligent or intentionally engaged in misconduct, we’re going to see to it that you don’t get sued on top of everything else you’ve had to deal with in trying to get through this.”
McConnell said on Tuesday that some basic protections for those who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 virus is “extremely important.” He did not say what protections are being considered.
Senate Republicans have not been inclined to vote to extend the $600 unemployment benefits package included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion relief package which was passed in March, McConnell said, adding that he believes it has discouraged some workers from returning to their jobs.
“We need to make sure, for those who are not able to recover their jobs, unemployment is adequate. That is a different issue from whether we ought to pay people a bonus not to go back to work. So I think that was a mistake,” he said.
Work on the next stimulus plan has already begun, according to Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Blunt, R-Missouri, told reporters Tuesday that his committee is working on legislation that would provide funding for more testing, research on therapeutics and vaccine development.
Blunt said that the stimulus bill would likely be coming together in about a month and that for his committee’s part, an increase in funding for more testing would, among other things, be the key to getting students and teachers back into classrooms in the fall.
“The most important thing we do to resume normalcy is to get people back to school. You’re not going to do that, particularly in a residential setting, without millions of tests that people can take dozens of times,” he said. “That’s very practical, it’s very possible.”
McConnell accused Democrats of engaging in “political theater” when it comes to more aid, saying it was a “serious Senate approach” that resulted in the CARES Act and that that approach is what is needed for a second stimulus package.
“This political theater is the opposite of the serious Senate approach that built the CARES Act,” McConnell said. “Any further recovery efforts should focus intently on three things: Kids, jobs, and healthcare. Partisan theater and politicized wish-lists are not what our country needs.”
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to McConnell urging him to restart negotiations on the legislation.
Pelosi, D-California, and Schumer, D-New York, chastised McConnell for not putting forth a second stimulus bill, writing that “it has been 45 days since the House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act to help the American people through the public health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Republicans have refused to take up the Heroes Act or any significant coronavirus legislation in the United States Senate during that time.”
The House passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act on May 16. Among other expenditures, the bill calls for a second stimulus payment that would give nearly every American $1,200.
Pelosi and Schumer went on to scold McConnell in the letter, saying, “You chose to prioritize the confirmation of right-wing judges and several Republican-led committees devoted precious time to chasing President Trump’s wild conspiracy theories.”