Talks are breaking down with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) again as Americans struggle for relief from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that McConnell is still demanding protections for corporations from being sued if they put workers' lives in danger. Democrats won't compromise on it, with lawsuits already happening at a Tyson meatpacking plant in Iowa where executives took bets over how many employees would get sick. Meatpacking plants in particular, have a history of putting profits over health protections, which can impact not just workers but consumers as well.
“I hope our colleagues let Congress deliver more help soon,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “A lot of Americans simply cannot afford to wait.”
It's an ironic statement because the House side passed a funding bill seven months ago that McConnell refused to even discuss until recently. Congress and the White House have been in talks for months on negotiating the bill, and came to many agreements, but McConnell stepped in to stop everything.
Democrats and Republicans are also split over stimulus funds sent to Americans. Republicans want a one-time payment of $300. Democrats want unemployed Americans to get at least $600 a week and another one-time check for $1,200.
Finally, the debate continues over state and local governments getting funding as they're looking toward major cuts during the pandemic. In the previous bills, some city governments have been hamstrung by rules and restrictions that they had to wade through with lawyers before dolling out cash. In other cases the funds have been paused over political debates about where the funds should go. To make matters worse, the Treasury Department's rules and regulations kept changing even after the CARES Act passed.
To make matters worse, some states are still clamoring to figure out how they can get the virus to stop spreading without upsetting right-wing protesters who show up at their homes with guns. There's another need for personal protective equipment as well, sending states into searches for supplies again.
States and cities are already talking about serious budget cuts despite being flush with COVID stimulus cash. That's because states can't use the money on budget shortfalls. All of the funds must be spent on COVID-related expenditures. Even if the budget shortfall is due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Since they haven't spent the money that's there, Republicans say that they see no reason to allocate additional funds. It's flawed logic that if states haven't spent the money yet that they either don't need it or won't need it. The reality is many states barely even met this year to discuss the state budget and some did so early on in the year before the crisis ramped up.
“From everything I can pick up on, things are in a stalemate today," said Bipartisan Policy Center VP Bill Hoagland. "But the desire is still there to get something put together on both sides. It’s always darkest before the sun rises.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is drawing a line, saying that no one is going home without this bill.
“I would hope that it would honor the December 18th deadline ... We’ve been here after Christmas, you know," she said.