WASHINGTON, DC – United States Senator Roy Blunt is optimistic a compromise can be reached this week on another economic stimulus package in the battle against COVID-19 and its impact on the economy.
Blunt, a Republican involved in the negotiations, insists Senate Republicans and House Democrats are not that far off, even if the Senate approved a $1 trillion package to counter the House $3 trillion measure.
“We’re never going to outspend Democrats in the House,” Blunt told reporters during a weekend stop in St. Joseph. “They put $7 ½ billion for child care subsidies, I put $15 (billion), they say, maybe we need $40 (billion). Now, this is the number they thought should be $7 ½ billion 90 days ago. So, part of this is just politics. It’s election-year politics. We’re 90 days from a presidential election.”
After a visit to Mosaic Life Care, a medical center in St. Joseph, Blunt told reporters there are three sticking points: how much federal unemployment assistance should be allocated, whether state and local governments should be provided assistance, and whether COVID-19 liability protection should be extended for businesses and groups.
An additional $600 weekly federal payment to unemployed workers ended at the end of July. House Democrats included nearly $1 billion of aid to state and local governments; the Senate did not. Senate Republicans included liability protections to businesses and groups which reopened during this coronavirus pandemic; the House did not.
Both and Senate and House include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
Some deadline pressure is growing for negotiators. The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington, D.C. after Friday for its annual August recess. Blunt doesn’t see that as a problem though, saying negotiations over such proposals normally come together in a 72-hour period.
“You just need to decide when that 72 hours is, so you can do whatever’s necessary to finally bring these bills together,” Blunt said. “They’re different in money, but they’re not different in much else.”
Blunt said many of his fellow Senate Republicans question the need for the bill and he says if one is to pass, it will need bipartisan support.
“So, this will be done by some number of Republicans and enough Democrats to get to 60 in the Senate,” according to Blunt.
Though Senate Republicans backed the last $1trillion-plus package, Blunt expects some to vote against this latest round of relief.
“Well, I think Senate Republicans are probably reverting back to a normal pattern where some of my Republican colleagues never vote for anything that spends money,” Blunt said, “That’s actually a workable strategy as long as somebody else will vote for what spends money.”