U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) adjusts her scarf as she is followed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) inside the U.S. Capitol after it was announced U.S. congressional leaders and the White House agreed on nearly $500 billion more in coronavirus relief for the U.S. economy, bringing to nearly $3 trillion the amount allocated to deal with the crisis, in Washington, April 21, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
The top congressional Democrats urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to immediately start talks on another coronavirus relief bill Monday as the pandemic continues to hammer the United States.
In a letter to the Kentucky Republican, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “unacceptable” to allow the Senate to leave for a two-week July 4 recess without passing more legislation to respond to the outbreak. They cited the need for Americans to cover costs of living, and the struggle for state and local governments to fund essential services including reopening schools in the fall.
“Now is the time for action, not continued delays and political posturing,” wrote Pelosi and Schumer, Democrats from California and New York, respectively.
Congress has approved more than $2.5 billion in aid to try to mitigate the damage the outbreak has caused to the health-care system and economy. While Congress and the Federal Reserve have tried to sustain individuals’ incomes and help businesses keep employees on payroll as states restart their economies, the U.S. unemployment rate was still higher than 13% in May.
Congress is heading toward a critical deadline at the end of July, when an extra $600 per week federal unemployment benefit expires and leaves millions of Americans facing an income cliff.
At least 12 states saw their seven-day average of daily new cases rise to record highs last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Case spikes in Texas and Florida raised new concerns, forcing their governors to roll back reopening plans. California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered bars to close in seven counties including Los Angeles as cases rose sharply in that state.
Last month, the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that included relief for state and local governments, hazard pay for essential workers, rent and mortgage assistance and another round of direct payments to individuals. The Senate has not moved to pass more aid since, as GOP leaders say they want to see how reopening affects the economy before they put together another bill.
On Friday, McConnell indicated the Senate would not consider more legislation until it returns from its recess in mid-July.
“Sometime in July we’ll take a snapshot of where the country stands, see how the jobs are coming back, see where we think we are and if there is a final rescue package that’s when it will develop and it will start, once again, in my office,” he said. The Senate GOP leader said the House bill approved in May was not a “serious effort.”
President Donald Trump had showed interest in passing another relief measure, but the appetite for a bill in the White House appeared to wane after the better than expected May jobs report. Trump’s advisors have floated stimulus proposals including a payroll tax cut and incentives to encourage restaurant and entertainment spending.
Pelosi and Schumer cited the new surge in cases in their argument to pass more relief. As infections continue to rise, the U.S. has reported more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases and at least 125,000 deaths.
The Democrats wrote that “Americans need and deserve bold action now.”
“On behalf of the millions of American families who desperately need Congressional action, we demand you change your mind and decide to work with us for the good of the country,” they wrote to McConnell.