Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C. over a COVID-19 stimulus relief bill fell apart Friday afternoon, leaving uncertainty as to when out-of-work Americans can again expect to receive weekly unemployment benefits.
The setback comes on the heels of the CARES Act’s $600 weekly unemployment benefit expiring on July 31, making the need for a new agreement “an urgent matter,” according to Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.
Mr. Carbajal believes there is a path toward the two parties reaching a compromise, but only if Republicans first marshal some sense of unity behind how to address the recent expiration of coronavirus relief. The representative said his colleagues on the other side of the aisle are “in disarray.”
By contrast, Mr. Carbajal said he and his fellow Democrats have coalesced behind The Heroes Act that was first introduced in May, now waiting for three months to negotiate its contents with Republicans. He expressed worry that dragging out the time until a deal is reached could hurt recent economic gains, which include around 1.8 million jobs added to the U.S. economy.
Democrats are seeking to extend the $600 a week provided by the recently expired CARES act benefits. Mr. Carbajal feels this is adequate and cited a Yale University study from last month that found $600 a week isn’t an overinflated amount.
A recent stimulus plan put forth by Senate Republicans would cut the $600 unemployment benefits to $200 a week, with the White House reportedly offering weekly benefits of $400 going into December, according to media reports.
The GOP’s relief bill containing the $200 weekly benefits would total around $1 trillion, far smaller than the Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion plan. However, some Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have taken exception to their own party’s stimulus plan on the grounds that its $1 trillion price tag would significantly raise the national debt. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, expressed on Twitter that the $1 trillion was indeed too much.
“We must help individuals & businesses that have been hurt but we can’t bail out states to shield them from the consequences of their bad budgeting,” Mr. Scott posted in a July 27 tweet.
Mr. Carbajal criticized Republicans for picking and choosing when they care about the national debt, specifically calling out their support for President Donald Trump’s tax plan from 2017. He said around 80% of the tax breaks in the plan went to the richest 1% of Americans and the plan added $2 trillion to the national debt.
“You’ve got to be consistent with your concern about the debt, not just selective,” Mr. Carbajal said.
As for President Trump’s desire to extend unemployment benefits via executive order and bypass congress, which he expressed in an Tweet on Thursday, Mr. Carbajal remarked that the president doesn’t legally have the right to do so and “needs to take an orientation” about what the president can and can’t do.