LOS ANGELES - "People are suffering, and if [Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] can’t be constructive, he needs to get out of the way.”
Friday, as the Senate voted to temporarily fund the government for an additional week, buying more time to negotiate a new coronavirus relief package, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson about the need for emergency aid.
That call for relief comes as a new wave of coronavirus ravages the United States.
This week, the nation averaged more than 200,000 new cases a day, on its way to nearly 16 million confirmed infections. And as cases, hospitalization, and deaths have risen, so too have new restrictions and lockdowns.
“People need the help, businesses are going to close, potentially for good, if they don’t get it right now, unemployment compensation is running out, so this has to get done,” Schiff said. “I’m at the office, as you can see, I’m going to do everything I can, I don’t think anybody should leave town until this is done.”
Months since the previous relief package passed both chambers of Congress, Michaelson asked Schiff how he would respond to those struggling Americans who say it is outrageous Congress has not been able to come to another consensus.
“I completely agree,” Schiff said. “In the House we passed legislation six months ago to get this done, it sat on Mitch McConnell’s desk for almost half a year. Now, many of us, on a bipartisan basis, have come to agreement, but Mitch McConnell is holding it up.”
That bipartisan effort is one announced December 1 by, among others, Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), that would provide $908 billion in emergency relief.
Of that top-line figure, $288 billion would be earmarked for small business aid, $160 billion for state and local government relief, $180 billion to be used to fund $300 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits, and $16 billion for vaccine distribution.
“It means, for constituents who are running out of unemployment compensation, or have already run out, that they would get more unemployment compensation for the duration, until they can get back to work,” the California Congressman said. “It would mean, I hope, that we can provide help to renters to keep a roof over their head. It would mean replenishing the PPP funds for small businesses, so that small businesses can weather this storm.”
Schiff said the bill, in providing help to state and local governments, would also mean that those governments could avoid having to layoff teachers, police, and firefighters, while also ensuring they have the funds necessary to adequately distribute the impending COVID vaccines.
Despite that support, Schiff did indicate, as have many other members of Congress, that the package is smaller than he would prefer.
As it stands, the $908 billion compromise package nearly doubles the $500 billion in targeted relief McConnell said he was open to in November, but less than half of the $2.2 trillion in relief the House called for in October.
“I support it, the Democratic leadership in the House supports it, but Mitch McConnell threw cold water on it,” Schiff told Michaelson. “I thought we had a pretty darn good bipartisan compromise, and I hope that we can persuade Mitch McConnell to get on board and get help to the American people, because we’re in a dire situation.”
McConnell may not be the only leader who needs persuading though, as President Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), have all criticized the bipartisan package for not including a new round of direct relief payments.
As he continued to train his frustration at McConnell for holding up relief efforts, Schiff simultaneously pushed back against criticism towards Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who many claim delayed previous proposed deals for political reasons.
“Republicans blame the Speaker, but the Speaker is in accord with moving forward with the Senate compromise, which is bipartisan, so it’s hard to lay that at the hands of the Speaker, when she’s saying ‘let’s move forward,’” Schiff said. “That’s being rejected by Mitch McConnell.”
In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Schiff also discussed his work as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the threat posed by China, and whether he would be interested in filling Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.
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