July 6, 2020/Press

Tillis Leaves DC Without Addressing Coronavirus Spike, High Unemployment

Senator Tillis left Washington for a two-week long break without addressing any of the current crises facing North Carolina, from the “alarming” new rise in coronavirus infections to persistently high unemployment and continued demands for racial justice. Tillis’ inaction comes as North Carolina hit a “record-high daily increase” in coronavirus cases last week and as more than 1 million North Carolinians have filed for unemployment insurance.

Tillis and McConnell ignored demands for “immediate action” and instead focused the last few weeks on “confirming President Trump’s nominees.” Tillis has refused to push for additional unemployment insurance after transforming North Carolina “into the worst state to be unemployed,” and has balked at giving states and communities additional relief, saying that he’s “more or less aligned” with Senator Mitch McConnell’s attempts to push state and local governments to “take the bankruptcy route.”

North Carolinians are used to inaction from their junior senator. Senator Tillis’ campaign admitted in a “complete response timeline” that he didn’t take public action on coronavirus for a month after receiving a briefing on January 24, three days after the first U.S. COVID-19 case was confirmed. Instead, Tillis was introducing a meaningless Senate resolution, appearing at Trump eventsrenaming a post office, and confirming a judge “notable for his strong defense” of voter suppression tactics, among other issues unrelated to coronavirus.

“Senator Tillis skipped town for a two-week break without addressing any of the issues facing North Carolinians, even as coronavirus cases spiked and more than 1 million North Carolinians remained out of work,” NCDP spokesperson Robert Howard said. “North Carolinians deserve a senator who will do the hard work to get us through this crisis, not a weak self-serving politician.”

Washington Post: Congress departs for two-week recess without addressing coronavirus spikes, economic strains
By Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Rachael Bade
July 6, 2020

Key Points:

  • The House and Senate have adjourned for a two-week recess without addressing the alarming new rise in coronavirus infections, setting up an intense struggle when they return over what might be the final major relief package for the pandemic.
  • Ignoring Democrats’ demands for immediate action, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has focused on other issues in recent weeks, such as an annual defense policy bill and confirming President Trump’s nominees. When the Senate comes back into session July 20, McConnell plans to turn his attention back to the coronavirus, giving lawmakers just three weeks to negotiate and pass a big rescue bill before they adjourn again through Labor Day.
  • It appeared many states were going to accelerate their reopening plans last month, but a number of governors have reversed course after a large increase in cases in the past several weeks. Several governors have ordered bars to stay closed, and many small businesses remain shuttered. Another 1.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, an elevated level that has persisted for more than three months.
  • Already, thorny disputes are shaping up over what to do about enhanced unemployment benefits that expire July 31, additional aid that Democrats are demanding for state and local governments, and a possible new round of stimulus checks to individual Americans favored by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin but opposed by some in the GOP.
  • At the same time, record new levels of coronavirus infections across the South and beyond are forcing lawmakers to reassess what they might need to put in the package, such as more money for hospitals, schools, testing and vaccine development.
  • Arguing for robust additional action, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that the new jobs figures, showing the economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, “may just be a slight peak in a much larger valley.”
  • “The Republican majority has been out to lunch since we passed the Cares Act way back in March,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It’s been over three months since the Republican Senate has considered major covid-relief legislation. Weekly unemployment claims are measured in the millions. States are shedding public service jobs in the tens of thousands. The number of new cases is accelerating in nearly half of our states. … Just how much more assessment do we need?”
  • Among the most contentious issue facing lawmakers is what to do with the $600-per-week additional unemployment benefits approved by Congress in March, which expire July 31.
  • Trump and senior Republican lawmakers have said the payments should be ended or dramatically scaled back, arguing the large benefit discourages workers from trying to find a job. Democrats and many economists say doing so would sharply reduce the incomes of more than 30 million people — months before the presidential election — and could drain the economic recovery of hundreds of billions in stimulus spending.