As the White House continues to lead negotiations with congressional Democrats over the latest COVID-19 relief package, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is sounding the alarm over election year politics possibly being put ahead of the welfare of the American people.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been at the forefront of negotiations on the Republican side of the aisle. He has said that Democrats, led by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have rejected four different offers to extend the $600 per week federal unemployment supplemental that expired this past Friday.
“Those four different offers have been actually rejected — but more importantly than that, they’ve not even been countered,” Meadows said last week.
Democrats have said they want a broader deal that lasts through the first quarter of 2021, however Republicans have admonished items seemingly unrelated to the pandemic that their counterparts on the left have tried to force through in negotiations. This includes Pelosi’s defense of funding for marijuana businesses in the latest Democratic relief proposal.
The Democrats’ proposal also “omitted language restricting abortion funding [with federal monies] and added protections against deportation of illegal immigrants,” as reported by the New York Post.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the Pelosi-led proposal “reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it.”
Despite this Democrat proposal being dead on arrival in the Senate, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has for weeks been calling on McConnell to take up the legislation. However, even though the Pelosi bill got just one Republican vote in the House, Jones has blamed Republicans for making “this into a partisan issue.” Alabama’s junior senator, while decrying the partisan nature of the negotiations, has also campaigned on the issue, seemingly adding to the politicization of coronavirus relief efforts.
“This election, more than any other I can remember, shows us the stark choice we can make as a country. We can stand together, listen to the experts about how to beat COVID-19, work together to make real change and end racial injustice and protect our health care – or we can let the extremists drive us apart and block any hope for real change,” Jones wrote in a July 31 campaign email.
However, Alabama’s senior senator — considered one of the most bipartisan elected officials in Washington, D.C., and a true statesman — on Thursday seemed to rebut Jones’ claims that it was Republicans playing politics with COVID-19 relief.
While some on Capitol Hill have expressed relative optimism at reaching a deal in the coming days, Senator Shelby explained why a final compromise might never come to fruition, no matter how much Republicans give ground.
Per Politico, the Senate Appropriations chairman told reporters in the Capitol, “We might not get a deal. … I think there’s a lot of pessimism here — ‘will we get an agreement? Are we too far apart?'”
“We’re at an impasse right now,” Shelby advised. “I would hope over the next few days we can get together and do something that will help a lot of working people in America. Republicans and Democrats, get together. At the moment, it doesn’t look promising.”
Per Hill pool reports, Shelby further explained, “The Democrats might not want a deal, politically. Think about it.”
McConnell, an Alabama native himself, in a Thursday afternoon tweet seemed to back Shelby’s idea.
Both Republicans and Democrats have publicly voiced their support of another round of stimulus checks for Americans, likely up to $1,200 each to match the first round of checks that went out earlier this year. It remains to be seen if agreement can be reached on the many other items on the table.
If a deal cannot be reached soon, President Donald Trump has now said that he will take executive action to provide relief to the American people. Issues Trump is considering acting on himself include “Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options,” per a Thursday tweet by the president.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn