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Capito defends GOP’s ‘skinny’ relief bill

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke with reporters Wednesday about the new coronavirus relief bill set for vote today. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — Republicans in the U.S. Senate will attempt to pass a smaller package later today aimed at helping small businesses affected by the coronavirus, provide additional relief to the unemployed, and more funding for schools as they re-open.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke with reporters Wednesday about the new coronavirus relief bill set for vote today.

“My feeling is that we need to get a targeted package out that really focuses on where the need still is,” Capito said. “I’m hoping that we can find an agreement, although I’m not very optimistic, that we can get help to where we really need it.”

The new package – dubbed the “skinny package” — has a $650 million price tag, though it’s expected that $350 million of that will be paid for with unused coronavirus relief funding from previous packages. The bill includes funding for a $300 per week coronavirus unemployment until Dec. 27, provides $105 billion to public schools and $29 billion in additional funding for COVID-19 healthcare.

Capito said the school portion of the bill includes additional funding to help daycare centers re-open in order to help parents be able to return to work.

“That’s critical to me and to many of us,” Capito said. “We see parents cannot get back to them because of the situation. Their kids are not in school or their daycare is not open. This offers help for education and childcare.”

It also includes new funds for the popular Paycheck Protection Program, liability protections for medical services and businesses, $20 billion in funding to farmers who have suffered economically during the pandemic, and forgives a $10 billion loan to the U.S. Postal Service through the C.A.R.E.S. Act.

“It hits a lot of the things that we all agree on and where we think we’d get the most help to everybody,” Capito said. “I’m really anxious to see this path. I will be voting for it.”

The bill is not expected to get the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate, but it is expected the bill will have more Republican support than the $1 trillion plan unveiled by Senate earlier this summer. Talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and White House officials regarding a new coronavirus relief package have broken down over the last few weeks, with Democrats seeking a $3 trillion deal, with Republicans negotiators seeking closer to $1.5 trillion.

“We’re racking up a lot of debt here,” Capito said. “We need to start, I think, focusing in on where the needs are. I’m adopting the philosophy of if we can’t agree on a bigger package, let’s at least reach agreement on where we know we have a bipartisan support because we’ve had that in the past. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue when you’re talking about people that can’t get back to work, or small businesses or schools reopening or childcare, or any of the things that this bill touches on.”

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed its pandemic relief package in May, which included direct funding for municipalities and an extension of the $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. The House plan has a $3.5 trillion price tag.

Senate Republicans presented its first version of pandemic relief at the end of July. That package would have replaced the now-expired $600-per-week unemployment benefit with $200 per week until the end of September, then decreasing to 70 percent of the recipient’s lost wages. The bill would have also put more money in the Paycheck Protection Program and increased tax breaks for businesses who retain employees.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., placed the blame on a stalled coronavirus relief package on Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. In a statement, McConnell accused the Democratic leaders of delaying relief as an election tactic.

“Everything Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer have done suggests one simple motivation: They do not want American families to see any more bipartisan aid before the polls close on President Trump’s re-election,” McConnell said. “Working families must not suffer more than necessary because Democrat leaders think citizens’ pain may help their political fortunes. Congress can, should, and must do more to help. The Senate will vote and the American people will be watching.”

“Instead of trying to get everybody on it, I think that what McConnell is trying to do is get a consensus so we can at least get something to the American public rather than continue this ridiculous non-negotiation that you see going on at the higher levels,” Capito said.

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