Senate Democrats blocked a Republican coronavirus stimulus bill over concerns that it favored corporations at the expense of the public, Politico reports.
Democrats blocked the bill on Saturday over concerns about a $500 billion corporate bailout fund included in the $1.8 trillion bill, which would also provide direct payments to people and boost funding for unemployment, hospitals, and states.
The $500 bill “Exchange Stabilization Fund” includes $58 billion to bail out airlines and air cargo companies as well as $425 billion that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can distribute with little oversight.
The bill allows Mnuchin to withhold the names of the companies that receive federal funding for six months and Democrats say Republicans have refused to allow restrictions requiring companies that accept funds to commit to not firing their workers.
Republicans defend bill:
“The proposal provides desperately needed resources for affected industries and sectors in order to keep people employed and at work,” said White House Legislative Affairs chief Eric Ueland. “This carefully drawn language contains significant pro-taxpayer and pro-consumer protections in a way unprecedented since the invention of these vehicles really 12 years ago.”
“The ‘Phase 3’ package takes precise and targeted measures of relief to particularly distressed industries that are at risk of hemorrhaging jobs and closing down if we don’t,” added Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. “Think of the airlines that right now have seen their passengers reduced by 80 percent, some say 90 percent. Think of the hotel businesses. Think of the other travel and tourism businesses, entertainment business.”
Democrats decry “slush fund”:
“We’re gonna give $500 billion in basically a slush fund to help industries controlled by Mnuchin with very little transparency? Is that what we ought to be doing?” asked Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
“We're not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” added Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “We're here to help workers, we're here to help hospitals. And right now, what the Republicans proposed does neither of those.”
Even Trump-friendly Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia slammed the bill.
“It’s throwing caution to the wind for the average person working on Main Street, it’s balls to the walls for the people working on Wall Street,” Manchin said. “It’s the same ol’ story from Mitch McConnell.”