The Senate left the nation’s capital Wednesday for its summer recess, leaving Americans to fight the coronavirus pandemic without financial support.
According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kept the chamber in session during the first week of its recess in a final attempt to create space for the administration and congressional Democrats to reach an agreement on a coronavirus relief package.
But with talks frozen and neither side willing to give in, there was little reason to keep trying.
“We will have our regular pro forma meetings through the end of the state work period. If the Speaker of the House and the minority leader of the Senate decide to finally let another package move forward … it would take bipartisan consent to meet for legislative business sooner than scheduled,” McConnell told reporters as he wrapped up the Senate until next month.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a conference call Monday that if talks didn’t restart by Thursday, President Trump’s executive order would be the only action the government takes to help Americans struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats entered negotiations with a $3 trillion to $3.7 trillion coronavirus package the House passed in May. Democrats have been willing to negotiate, saying they would come down on their relief package by $1 trillion. Republicans, however, have said they want the next coronavirus package to total $1 trillion.
“We are miles apart in our values,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn. That isn’t the case. This is very far apart.”
White House advisor Larry Kudlow said the talks are at a “stalemate.”
The two sides have spent weeks arguing over how much the weekly unemployment benefits would be, how much money to give state and local governments, or how to address McConnell’s red line of liability protections for businesses that open back up. School funding, both the amount and how it’s divided up, remains a sticking point as well as coronavirus testing and treatment.
Both the House and Senate leave Washington, D.C. as the unemployment rate still sits above 10 percent, the coronavirus infection rate is over five million, and cities and states have seen their tax revenues disappear.
Vulnerable lawmakers on both sides in trouble
Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum are now vulnerable and are pushing the Senate to reach a deal.
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) who won a district Trump won in 2016 told CNN that “I share the concerns that I’m hearing from my constituents: I’m pissed. I’m angry…At this point, it’s a middle finger to the American people.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)–who trails Democratic opponent Sara Gideon by 8 points in her reelection bid according to The Hill–said Thursday the Senate should reconvene next week to try to work on an agreement and force members to vote on coronavirus relief proposals.
“Have people step up to the plate,” Collins told the Sun Journal.
McConnell on Thursday accused Democrats of holding an agreement “hostage” and “barely even pretending to negotiate.”
“By now the whole country knows what I’m talking about, the absurd issues which the Democrats have turned into sticking points,” he said.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) laughed off McConnell’s comments pointing put McConnell is facing his own headache–by his own estimate, up to 20 senators are prepared to vote against any deal.
“He’s gotta say something,” Kaine said. “And, you know, I think he’s done what he can do with the Senate GOP. When he candidly acknowledged, ‘Look, there’s gonna be at least 20 members of Congress who won’t vote for a single dollar’s worth of aid,’ he basically at that point is saying, ‘Dems, you gotta work it out with the White House.’”