Iowa’s senators criticize Democrats for COVID-19 relief bill negotiations

Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst said Democrats aren't compromising on their proposals for a phase four coronavirus relief bill, which is stalling in the senate as negotiations have hit an impasse.


Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sits in his Washington office on March 12. Grassley said he opposes President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum because they could hurt Iowa farmers who rely on international trade to make a profit. (Gage Miskimen/The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, criticized congressional Democrats this week on their role in negotiations on the upcoming coronavirus relief bill.

Grassley said Democrats aren’t compromising on their goals for the bill, and are not accepting any of the Senate Republicans’ proposals.

“We have Democrats seeming to have rejected just about everything out of hand,” he said in a press conference Wednesday. “And it seems to be no consideration, no compromise. And of course, that’s not how you deliver for the American people.”

There is a $2 trillion difference in the relief plans of the two parties, and negotiations are stalling as millions of unemployed Americans have lost federal benefits that expired at the end of July.

Republicans have introduced a $1 trillion plan that includes reduced unemployment benefits, a second round of stimulus checks, and no eviction moratorium. Democrats are using the HEROES Act, passed by the House in May, as a starting point for negotiations.

RELATED: Federal unemployment assistance will be reduced in phase four coronavirus relief bill, Grassley says

The $3 trillion HEROES Act would expand the amount paid out in stimulus checks for dependents, reinstate $600 federal unemployment assistance, and expand the recently ended eviction moratorium to include most renters in the U.S.

Grassley said Democrats are upping requests for education funding, and they aren’t budging on continuing the $600 a week unemployment benefits, though he said Republicans have offered to bump the benefits up from the party’s original proposal of $200 a week.

“When you can reach an agreement you’d think you can grab the opportunity,” Grassley said. “… It seems like when they get a victory they don’t want to take it.”

Ernst leveled similar accusations in a press call on Thursday, saying Democrats were hurting Americans by refusing to negotiate.

“We need the Democrats to come to the table and work with us on this package,” she said. “Otherwise, we will see Americans hanging in the balance.”

Both senators condemned Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for denying an offer from the White House to extend the $600 federal unemployment assistance past its expiration date of July 31.

According to CBS News, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows proposed a one-week extension of federal benefits, but Democratic leaders rejected it because they said it wasn’t enough.

“Chuck Schumer just flat out said ‘No.’ He rejected it,” Ernst said in the call. “No, meaning either, ‘To heck with it, we’re not going to negotiate,’ or he just simply wanted to throw us in the chaos.”

Schumer said in a Thursday press conference that the parties aren’t reaching an agreement because Republicans do not understand the gravity of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, and the majority party and White House aren’t willing to spend enough money to address the crisis.

“We believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid,” Schumer said. “We won’t let them just pass the Band-Aid and go home and leave America bleeding.”


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