One of the bills within the GOP’s economic aid plan, dubbed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, would fast-track Social Security and Medicare cuts, according to Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act of 2020, introduced Monday as part of the GOP’s HEALS Act, calls for the creation of bipartisan committees and an expedited rulemaking process intended to speed up legislation to improve the solvency of Social Security and Medicare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stated Monday in unveiling the HEALS Act that the Trust Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is included in Republicans’ HEALS package.
“Senator Romney has legislation to help a future Congress ensure our critical national trust funds remain strong,” McConnell said.
Wyden argued that “Instead of helping Americans who are struggling to pay rent and keep food on the table, Republicans want to put cuts to Social Security and Medicare in the fast lane” through the TRUST Act.
The bill, Wyden said, “doubles down on a failed formula of using secret, closed-door panels to dramatically undo these earned benefits. … Pursuing this approach is bad policy in the best of times, but during a pandemic and economic crisis it spells disaster. I will oppose any legislation that includes a fast lane to Social Security and Medicare cuts.”
While Democrats’ negotiations with the White House started Monday night, “the Republican proposal is not an adequate starting point,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Schumer reiterated his complaints that the multi-bill Republican plan is not a “unified” plan. “Instead of presenting a single, unified bill, Republicans released several separate drafts last night, and there might be more today,” Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said late Monday that “after waiting for two months, now they [Republicans] come back piecemeal.” The HEALS plan “isn’t serious,” she said.
Schumer stated that he and Pelosi would continue talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows again Tuesday night “in an effort to try and get a bill.”
During a Tuesday afternoon press briefing, Schumer added that “if we stay strong, I have good hope … a decent chance that Republicans will move in our direction and we’ll get much of what we want.”
In comments to CBS This Morning on whether an agreement could be reached this week, Schumer stated: “I hope so, and that’s what we’re working for. We’ll sit down. We’re going to sit down again today. We’ll sit down 24/7. People’s needs are so great that we’ll do whatever we can to reach a deal. But without foregoing their basic needs.”
McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor that “Our nation stands at a challenging crossroads,” adding that “a package will have to be bipartisan to pass the Senate.”
HEALS Act vs. Heroes Act
In a joint statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi and Schumer outlined where they said the HEALS Act falls short compared to Democrats’ Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act, which passed the House in May.
The $3 trillion Heroes Act extends $600 weekly unemployment benefits through January 2021, whereas the HEALS Act cuts supplemental unemployment benefits to $200 a week through September, when the payment will be combined with state benefits to replace 70% of wages.
Pelosi and Schumer also said HEALS gives wealthy corporations a business meal tax deduction but doesn’t extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for struggling families. The Heroes Act provided a 15% increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs.
The Heroes Act contains $175 billion in new supports for rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related costs.
HEALS, Pelosi and Schumer said, also provides “zero election funding or Post Office assistance, while spending $2 billion on President Trump’s priority to renovate the FBI headquarters and prevent competition for Trump Hotel and handing a $30 billion slush fund to defense contractors.”
HEALS does not extend the eviction moratorium, provide rental or mortgage assistance or boost state and local funding, Pelosi and Schumer added.
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