‘It’s a disaster’: Republican senators ridicule key proposals in Republican Party virus package

The group will meet again tomorrow, but Pelosi did not seem optimistic about reaching an agreement any time soon.

“What we are doing now is conveying our differences: this discovery and understanding of where there may or may not be opportunities,” Pelosi added.

Meadows, when he and Mnuchin left McConnell’s office Tuesday night, said he believes the negotiations are in the “second inning.” Mnuchin added that both sides were still “at the beginning” of the talks, saying that he and Meadows were heading to the White House to report to the president.

Meadows said Democrats hold firm with $ 600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits and $ 915 billion in additional state and local aid.

Across the Capitol, Republican senators voiced several concerns with the $ 1 trillion package in public comments and during a private lunch with senior Trump administration officials on Tuesday. His complaints with the bill spanned the gamut, from price frustrations to the process by which the bill was drafted and published. There were even objections to an unrelated provision the White House was seeking that allocates nearly $ 2 billion in funds for the construction of a new FBI headquarters in downtown Washington, DC

“I think if Mitch can get half the conference, it would be a great achievement,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.).

“We have unity in disagreement,” added Senator John Kennedy (Republican), who complained during the Republican lunch about not knowing the content of the bill, according to Republican Party sources.

“I’m not going to vote on a bill on behalf of unity when I don’t know what’s in the damn thing,” Kennedy said later.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Left lunch behind closed doors with a forceful assessment: “It is a disaster. I can’t understand what this bill is about. I don’t know what we’re trying to achieve with that. “

Senator Mike Lee (Republican of Utah) spoke about the lack of amendments and the legislative process, according to Republican Party sources. And Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Who opposes a new coronavirus relief measure altogether, walked out of the lunch meeting early and harangued his colleagues over the $ 1 trillion price, which is almost certain increase it during a negotiation with the Democrats. .

“It is very frustrating for me because they are the people who go home and say that we are fiscally conservative, [and] they are now in a tender with Democrats to see how much money they can spend, “Paul said. He later called in particular to his fellow Republicans who are ready for reelection this year, accusing them of pressing for new spending to aid their reelection offers. .

“I think they have the wrong idea that you have to spend this or you can’t get elected,” added Paul.

McConnell (R-Ky.) Addressed those divisions within the party on Tuesday, saying he was not surprised to hear criticism from members of his conference.

“I have members who are everywhere in this,” McConnell acknowledged. “This is a complicated problem. We have done everything possible to develop a consensus among the largest number of Republican senators, and that is just the starting point, that’s where we began to deal with the other party and with the administration. “

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (RS.D.) encouraged members at lunch to communicate with each other internally before speaking in public, according to an aide.

In addition to the group of tax conservatives who oppose another round of cash aid, new factions are emerging on other aspects of the Republican Party’s opening offer, including greater flexibility for state and local governments.

“I am very concerned about the amount of money we are talking about,” said Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.). “What I don’t want to do is rescue the states. That is wrong.”

President Donald Trump has even ignored the importance of disagreements within his party, and told reporters on Tuesday that the Republican plan is “almost irrelevant.”

Meadows did not directly address Trump’s comments that the Republican bill is “semi-irrelevant” when asked.

“Right now, I think everyone recognizes that there is a long way between $ 1 trillion and $ 3 trillion and therefore, to suggest that there is room for negotiation, it will actually have to be built from scratch,” he said.

Democrats, meanwhile, have dismissed the Republican plan as inappropriate, as $ 600 a week in expanded federal unemployment benefits and eviction protections will expire later this week.

Republicans “are not concerned that so many people, millions of children are food insecure, millions of people cannot afford the rent,” Pelosi told Democrats in a private call Tuesday. He added that the Republican bill was riddled with “condescension and lack of respect.”

And there is no sign that lawmakers are close to a deal, even when Congress sets multiple deadlines. Pelosi and Schumer questioned McConnell’s willingness to strike a deal, saying the Kentucky Republican has indicated he will not compromise his liability protection claims for schools and businesses in the upcoming bill.

“That is not a way to negotiate particularly when your disposition is so extreme,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

Several Republican senators were stunned, notably by the new FBI funds, which Democrats said were intended to boost profits for the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, located across from the FBI-proposed building. Although both sides agree that the FBI needs a new headquarters, several lawmakers have been pushing for the facility to be built in Virginia or Maryland. The White House said Monday that the building should remain near the center of the Justice Department headquarters.

McConnell, for his part, said he opposes the “unrelated” provisions in any final coronavirus relief package, effectively shutting down the effort.

“When we get to the end of the process, I hope that all of the non-Covid measures are out, regardless of the bill they had at the beginning,” McConnell said.

When asked about FBI funding, Graham said he would support removing it from the final bill, adding: “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said “it was kind of a strange addition,” while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), a prosecutorial hawk, said he was “a little surprised by that.”

“I am quite skeptical about the way it appears to be shaping,” Toomey said of the general bill.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) confirmed that the White House lobbied for funds from the FBI.

Meadows, however, called the FBI’s money “a pressing necessity” when he entered the Republican Senate’s weekly luncheon, contradicting McConnell. During lunch, Meadows assured members that it would try to stay close to $ 1 billion, according to Senator Kevin Cramer (RN.D.).

Cramer said Meadows hypothetically pointed to examples of priorities for Democrats and Republicans “that can be interchangeable, to eliminate some money and make room for other things.”

Meanwhile, Democrats are taking advantage of internal Republican Party disputes and highlighting the FBI’s willingness to suggest that Republicans do not take the coronavirus negotiations seriously.

“Senate Republicans managed to sneak in almost $ 2 billion in taxpayer funds for a new FBI building whose location will increase the value of the Trump Hotel and enrich the President and his family,” said Schumer. “Yes, in this proposal, Senate Republicans reward the business interests of the President and his family, but not our essential workers.”

The House is supposed to leave later this week for a long August recess, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Democrat) told Democrats they would be on call to return next week, with 24 hours in advance, to vote on a possible coronavirus package. . Privately, however, several Democratic advisers said a deal next week seems optimistic at best, despite deadlines for unemployment insurance and eviction moratoriums.

“A McConnell fig leaf … reflects his ‘you’re alone’ policy,” Hoyer added, dismissing the Senate proposal.

John Bresnahan contributed to this story.