WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Katko had harsh words Friday for the White House and Senate leaders as lawmakers prepare to leave the nation’s capital without a deal on coronavirus relief.
After the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives sent its $3 trillion bill to the Republican-majority Senate last week, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell slow-played the release of the GOP’s proposal. The Senate Majority Leader’s proposed $1 trillion aid package was “wholly inadequate,” Katko, R-Camillus, said.
“The McConnell bill failed to meaningfully address enhanced unemployment insurance,” Katko told media members on an online press call Friday, while also decrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offering for containing a number of “poison pills” that made sure it was, he claimed, "going nowhere."
July 31 marked the official end of the $600 per week payments to unemployment insurance filers in place since the initial pandemic relief bill passed in March. Katko said he did not agree with congressional leadership’s decision to recess without resolution, but there existed for him no reason to stick around the Capitol if no votes would be held. He’d use the recess to “do everything I can to help constituents,” he said, and will “continue to make myself available,” but his frustration with the process was clear.
“We just have to sit down, compromise and bridge the gap,” he said. “(Congress) started out really well (collaborating on pandemic relief), but now the ball is in the court of the Senate leaders and White House and none of them are doing their job. It’s a presidential campaign year, and each side smells blood in the water.”
New York’s Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, this week lambasted the GOP and McConnell’s proposal. The Brooklyn Senator said trying to negotiate with McConnell is like “trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.”
As negotiations broke down over the details of the COVID-19 aid bill, Schumer said McConnell would “torpedo all relief Americans are counting on” without a “giant corporate immunity provision attached,” according to reporting by Ben Kail of MassLive.com.
For now, however, lawmakers will head back to their districts to face voters who have been suffering for months under pandemic conditions. Katko, like all members of Congress, is up for re-election this November.
“The White House had an opportunity to act and they failed to do so,” Katko said, while also acknowledging that there were “no clean hands in this.”