CORONAVIRUS

Sen. Chuck Grassley calls Democrats' blockage of aid package 'unfathomable'

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020, to work on sweeping economic rescue plan amid the pandemic crisis and nationwide shutdown. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

When he went to work Monday morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expected approval of a $2 trillion economic recovery package to provide assistance for health care and additional unemployment benefits as well as aid to corporations and small businesses to keep workers on the job and earning paychecks.

Instead, for some “unfathomable reason,” a clearly frustrated Grassley said Monday, Democrats have blocked action on the package, arguing it lacks transparency and falls short of meeting the needs of workers and families.

It’s one thing to vote against a bill, but “they don’t even want the bill to come up for discussion,” Grassley said.

“I think to everybody this is an urgent situation,” he said, referring to the increasing number of people out of work and number of businesses closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“But they’re throwing sand in the gears,” he said, “when every passing minute means more Americans’ health and livelihood are put at risk. So I’m very disappointed.”

Over the weekend, Grassley, said he and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, which he leads, had good discussions that resulted in a proposal for recovery checks of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples.

The bill also would increase funding for telehealth for people on Medicare, increase resources for Medicare and Medicaid, and increase unemployment compensation $600 a month for three months on top of state benefits.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats have objected to what they call a bailout of corporations. Much of the aid would go to companies with fewer than 500 employees that could qualify for forgivable loans if they keep their employees on the payroll, Grassley said.

Bailing out the airlines would keep millions of people employed, Grassley said, adding, corporations aren’t “some sinister organization — it’s jobs.”

Grassley also said that as far as he can recall, he hasn’t been within six feet of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. However, Grassley said it’s possible he’s come into contact with people who had been in contact with Paul.

“In my personal practice, I’m socially distancing,” he said, and his doctor hasn’t recommended that he be tested.

Half of his staffers are working remotely, and those in the office are maintaining their distance, Grassley said. He’s also conducting constituent meetings via phone rather than face to face.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.