Senate Republicans Sidelined in COVID Relief Negotiations

Appearing on Fox News Channel’s Special Report Wednesday night after weeks of negotiations with Democrats over the next round of coronavirus relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked whether a deal was in sight.

“Well, I sure hope so,” he replied with a chuckle. “I think both sides want to get to an outcome. That’s the good news. The bad news is we are a long way apart, and, uh… we’ll see.”

If it wasn’t already clear last week, it sure is now: Congress is beyond late getting to that outcome. The CARES Act’s provision expanding unemployment benefits by $600 a week lapsed at the end of July, meaning the income of about 30 million Americans is currently falling off a cliff, an outcome neither Democrats nor Republicans wanted. But they’ve stalled out over a dollar amount: Democrats want to keep the benefit at current levels, while most Republicans argue it should be reduced to $200 extra a week or 70 percent of a recipient’s previous income. Until they strike a deal, $0 a week is where it sits.

The Census Bureau last week reported that more than a quarter of American adults are in dire housing straits: either they weren’t able to make their last rent or mortgage payment or they don’t expect to be able to pay next month’s. 

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