UPDATE: Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper lands a strong right hook to Gardner’s chin in a new statement:
“The clock ran out on 330,000 Coloradans who count on this critical unemployment insurance program, and Senator Cory Gardner couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger,” said Hickenlooper. “When you’re dealing with a crisis you work around the clock to solve it — you don’t take a two-week vacation and campaign with Ivanka Trump. People are counting on leadership from Washington, and they’re being let down.”
Politico reports–after failing to reach an agreement amongst themselves last week on a new economic stimulus bill to keep millions of Americans housed and fed as the COVID-19 pandemic rages unchecked, U.S. Senate Republicans are set to announce a proposal today that will severely reduce the additional unemployment compensation that some 330,000 people in Colorado are currently depending on:
The Senate GOP proposal — backed by the White House — is expected to call for the reduction in boosted unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 per week [Pols emphasis] for a 60-day period, or until states are able to provide a 70 percent wage replacement, according to sources on a call with GOP staff. This prospective change had been floated by the White House last week, although there have been concerns whether state unemployment agencies could handle the revisions.
The GOP package is also expected to include liability reform, another round of $1,200 direct payments to middle and lower-income Americans, additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, $25 billion to improve state coronavirus testing programs and more than $100 billion to help reopen schools and colleges.
Negotiations on the next coronavirus relief proposal comes as a federal $600 boost in unemployment benefits from the March CARES package began to expire over the weekend. Democrats are pushing to extend those benefits into next year.
There’s no word from Sen. Cory Gardner yet on this forthcoming proposal, which will come as no surprise to anyone who follows the U.S. Senate’s Great Evader–but speaking with reporters on Friday during his campaign stop with Ivanka Trump in Greenwood Village, the swing-state version of the GOP’s updated talking points got a preview:
In Washington, Congress is working on the next federal coronavirus relief package. Senate Republicans have said they’ll unveil their proposals Monday. Gardner said he’d like to see more money for COVID-19 testing either as part of the overall measure or in a stand-alone bill. He also supports another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans and an extension of the expanded unemployment insurance benefits, but did not specify a dollar amount. [Pols emphasis] Republicans have worried that the current $600-a-week benefit is more than some low income people made at their jobs.
“Let’s not create a disincentive to work, [Pols emphasis] but let’s make sure that we’re taking care of people.”
He can’t quite bring himself to call 330,000 Coloradans “takers,” but Gardner’s rhetorical focus on not creating “a disincentive to work” is a clear tell that he’ll support his party in drastically reducing the expanded unemployment benefits 330,000 Coloradans are currently receiving. And as the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports, Republicans arguing amongst themselves has already set Coloradans up for unavoidable suffering:
Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans will keep getting their standard unemployment benefit from the state. But the extra $600 that has helped people pay the bills, cover the rent or mortgage and buy groceries ended on Saturday.
Even if lawmakers resolve their differences soon — maybe even this week — over new spending and additional federal help for people out of work, there will be a lag while state labor departments reprogram their systems. That could take days or weeks, depending on how complicated the change is.
In short, after the delay Republicans had in coming to an agreement denies millions of Americans money they need to survive for some undetermined period, unemployed Americans are guaranteed to end up with less money under the Republican proposal. And if that’s a problem, which it of course is for everyone who has bills to pay, it’s their problem. We can’t speak to policies in every state, but in Colorado, people on unemployment have been required to look for work since the end of May. This isn’t about anyone’s work ethic; it’s about safety, and keeping the economy intact as a global pandemic continues to inconveniently rage.
Politically, this is a moment that Cory Gardner has been dreading ever since the pandemic made the kind of economic stimulus he derided when Barack Obama asked for it Gardner’s best tool for political survival in an election he is increasingly expected to lose. It was basically inevitable that ideologue conservative Republicans would shut off the stimulus keeping the economy afloat before the need was truly past. The pain this action will cause to millions of Americans and 330,000 Coloradans along with their dependents would be politically toxic at any time, but less than four months before the November elections this is a fate-sealing disaster for a vulnerable Republican like Cory Gardner.
Another fate-sealing disaster, we should say. And there’s plenty of time for more.