US Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rejecting a cross-party COVID 19 stimulus bill revealed on Tuesday. He said the Kentucky Republican must “listen” to members of his own party who call for urgent action.
The 908 billion dollar bill was tabled on Tuesday by a bipartisan group of four Republican and four Democratic senators along with King. The proposal was also endorsed by 50 members of the House of Representatives from the bipartisan problem Solvers Caucus. However, McConnell signaled that he plans to push for a much leaner bill as millions of Americans continue to struggle financially as the pandemic continues to grow nationwide.
“We really tried to find a middle ground and we were tired of waiting,” King told CNN on Wednesday when he spoke about the bipartisan stimulus package. “And I don’t understand what the majority leader’s problem is,” the independent said.
McConnell “has to listen, and I hope he will listen to the members of his group who say, ‘Listen, we have to do something. It’s urgent,” King said. He pointed out that many Americans will “lose” their current benefits from the federal government as well as “their homes” as a result of the post-Christmas evictions. “The schools will have really serious problems. We have to do something, and we have worked in good faith to make sure that this happens,” said the lawmaker.
“I don’t understand what the majority leader’s problem with the $900 billion bipartisan stimulus package is,” said @SenAngusKing.
“I hope he will listen to the members of his group who say: ‘Listen, we have to do something, it’s urgent.'” https://t.co/7HlS4PzFh8 pic.twitter.com/JVoXis0T8h
– New Day (@NewDay) December 2, 2020
Washington Newsday asked McConnell’s press representative for a comment, but did not receive an immediate response.
When he spoke to reporters on Tuesday, McConnell seemed to reject the bipartisan proposal. He said he supported a “targeted aid bill containing things we can agree on,” and hinted that the bipartisan effort would not get a “presidential signature” to become law.
In mid-November, McConnell said he was open to a $500 billion COVID-19 assistance bill before the end of the year. The GOP’s Senate leader had already presented a $500 billion proposal in September that had the support of most Republicans in the Senate but was blocked by Democrats who support a much larger package. In mid-October McConnell again presented a similar offer.
The new bipartisan proposal would provide unemployed Americans with an additional $300 a week and $288 billion in funding that would go to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. It includes approximately $82 billion for education, $45 billion for transportation, $26 billion for nutritional support and $16 billion for health care costs, particularly the costs associated with COVID-19 testing and the distribution of outstanding vaccines. Not included would be an additional incentive check of $1,200 for most Americans, as included in the $2.2 trillion cross-party CARES bill passed in March.
In addition to King, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah signed the bipartisan bill. The efforts were led by Collins and Manchin.
Republicans Collins and Murkowski expressed concern about McConnell’s position and indicated that his smaller proposal would not succeed.