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Democrats urge more coronavirus relief funds

Updated June 29, 2020 - 3:15 pm

WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders called Monday on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to drop the “delays and political posturing” and begin bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on another coronavirus relief bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a recent spike in coronavirus cases and a faltering economy demand that the Senate take up a bill passed by the House some 45 days ago to address financial and public health woes.

“Over one-fifth of the workforce has requested unemployment assistance,” the leaders wrote in a letter to McConnell, R-Ky. “Now is the time for action, not continued delays and political posturing.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., told the Review-Journal that Senate action on a coronavirus relief bill was needed to help Nevada, where a new fiscal year begins July 1. The state faces a projected $1.27 billion shortfall due to shutdowns and expenditures.

Nevada is not alone. Other states and cities have urged lawmakers to provide federal assistance quickly.

There are 45 states crafting budgets for fiscal calendars that begin next month, all struggling with the loss of tax revenues and fees while providing essential services like policing, health care and trash collection.

“Our states have been devastated,” Cortez Masto said.

Wait and see

McConnell has resisted taking up another coronavirus relief bill until the impact of earlier legislation is assessed and specific gaps in earlier assistance legislation are identified.

The Senate majority leader also wants legal protections for health care providers and businesses, schools and universities to prevent an “epidemic of frivolous lawsuits.”

McConnell said the Senate would continue the approach it took with the first Coronavirus Relief Fund, commonly referred to as the CARES Act, which was passed 96-0 in March.

“The Senate has continued with our substantive, serious, facts-first approach,” McConnell said. “That is the winning formula that built the historic, successful CARES Act, and that is the formula we will replicate in any future recovery legislation down the road.”

Still, some Republicans in the Senate are urging GOP leadership to act, citing continued fiscal hardship on their states, cities, businesses and workers.

An unemployment boost of $600 per week for workers furloughed or laid off during the pandemic ends July 31. The House bill would extend the benefit until January.

Cases spike

Meanwhile, states that rushed to reopen, like Florida, Texas and Arizona, are seeing a spike in new coronavirus cases that could overwhelm medical facilities.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, ordered hospitals in the state’s four largest metropolitan areas to halt elective surgeries to ensure beds and equipment, like ventilators, for those infected with COVID-19.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has mandated the use of masks in public places, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, closed bars in Los Angeles and other populous counties because of the rising number of coronavirus infections.

After months of sidestepping the use of masks, Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to Dallas over the weekend urged the public to wear facial coverings to stop the spread of the virus.

Even McConnell said Monday there should be “no stigma” for those wearing masks.

That statement comes as some Republicans in Nevada announced the formation Monday of a new political action group to fight the Sisolak mask mandate that they called hostile “to our Constitution and our freedom.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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