As Farmers Wait, Republicans, Democrats Argue Over Size Of Next Relief Package

Pandemic aid for farmers and others hangs in the balance as Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C. continue to blame each other for the lack of progress in talks on a major new virus relief package. The nation faces what many have called, an economic cliff, while lawmakers face a political one.

The August recess appears to be on the back burner as lawmakers who have returned home have been told to prepare for a possible return to the nation’s capital to vote on a recovery proposal. This all comes after last week’s announcement that the U.S. economy slowed dramatically in the second quarter. And still the finger pointing continues.

“The coronavirus does not care that we are divided,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “The coronavirus will not care if Washington Democrats decide it suits their partisan goals to let relief run dry. The American people are hurting, and Congress should have their backs.” 

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, Ag may need another $60 to $70 billion to offset losses in crops, livestock, and biofuels. The Senate GOP’s bill has $20 billion. But extending emergency jobless benefits that expired Friday is the key stumbling block to a new deal.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer took issue with Republican efforts to scale back those benefits.

“We need to turn the page on the Republican proposal—and quickly.  The legislative train wreck by Senate Republicans cannot derail our efforts to provide urgent, comprehensive, and necessary relief to the American people.” 

Republicans are divided on the size of their $1 trillion proposal but strongly oppose the $3 trillion House-passed HEROES Act, while Democrats refuse to consider even a short-term stop-gap bill. Ag leaders are watching in horror as losses in livestock, ethanol, and crops mount into the tens of billions of dollars, and lawmakers likely face their last chance before the election to rescue an economy that may be sputtering again.

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