Widespread Disagreement On Capitol Hill Over COVID-19 Relief Package

Less than two weeks before Congress' planned August recess, negotiations and details are elusive.

Widespread Disagreement On Capitol Hill Over COVID-19 Relief Package
Patrick Semansky / AP

The clock is ticking on the passage of a coronavirus aid bill, and an important unemployment benefit is set to run out.

With less than a week and a half until Congress' scheduled August recess, Senate Republicans have yet to present a complete bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants liability protections in the bill, something echoed by congressional Republicans: 

"We ... have to give liability protections to businesses and schools," said Rep. Debbie Lesko, an Arizona Republican and member of the House Freedom Caucus. "If [businesses and schools are] acting in good faith and someone gets COVID, I don't want a bunch of frivolous lawsuits."

"Businesses can't be negligent," stressed Congressman Brett Guthrie, a Republican representing Kentucky's 2nd Congressional District. "Let's say you're a restaurant and you say, '[there’s] no [public health] requirement, we're going to crowd it and serve as many people as we can;' that's not following the guidelines."

"I think you have to have safety protections following the guidelines," he added.

Also on the table: the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit widely supported by Democrats but set to expire at the end of this week. 

"The $600 was ... if you lived in New York City [or] if you lived in rural Alabama," Guthrie told Newsy. "Everybody got the same amount of money and it does give a disincentive going back to work…. I've had some employers tell me they feel guilty in calling some of their employees back to work."

Notably absent from Mitch McConnell's list of priorities? Funding for states and local governments fighting COVID-19. 

Some Democrats say they don't have a red line but will still push for funding outlined in the HEROES Act, which passed the House two months ago and has floundered in the Republican-majority Senate.  

"I don't know about not supporting [the final legislation], but I will fight for funding for our cities, funding for the postal service, the extension of the unemployment, and the stimulus check," said Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Michigan whose district encompasses parts of Detroit.

"I don't like to say [I] won't vote on something but I will tell you I will fight to the last vote to get the things we know we need," she added.

Senate Republicans reportedly plan to release their spending plan on Thursday.