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Brown Calls Stimulus Package Inadequate but Essential

a photo of Sherrod Brown
Carter Adams
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), shown here on a UAW picket line, says one of the reasons it has taken so long to come to a deal is because of the anti-union positions of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Congress appears to be close to approving another round of aid to help individuals and businesses deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The $900 billion package includes additional unemployment benefits, more aid for businesses and another direct payment to Americans.

But two key provisions have been left out, one that Democrats wanted and one that has been a sticking point for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says "This package is essential. It's not as much as it should be, but it will alleviate a lot of heartache. It will help some businesses stay in business. It will help unemployed workers. It will make a difference in people being able to stay in their apartment and not be evicted, so it's important we do it now."

Brown says he has been urging Sen. McConnell to get a package approved before Congress goes home for the holidays. "We shouldn't go home for Christmas until this is done," Brown said. "It looks like it's going to get finished this week and it's inadequate. But it's welcome and important and something we should've done weeks ago."

Negotiations have reportedly led each side to sacrifice one major item. For Democrats, that's said to be aid for state and local governments. Brown says McConnell sees it as aiding unions, because many municipal workers belong to labor organizations. "We're going to keep trying," he said.

"It looks like it's going to get finished this week and it's inadequate. But it's welcome and important and something we should've done weeks ago."
Sen. Sherrod Brown

McConnell and his Republican colleagues have reportedly given up seeking to have businesses protected from being sued over COVID-19. "That's what's blocked the movement on this bill for so long," Brown said. "Every time these workers are in a situation that might be dangerous, they have no power against their employer to get their employer to make the workplace safer. Too often when there's a fork in the road and it's either corporate interest or worker interest, McConnell chooses corporations every time."

With those issues apparently off the table, Brown expects the stimulus package to be paired with government funding legislation and receive a vote soon. "Probably the House, maybe later today, the Senate tomorrow or Saturday," Brown said. "It will get done this week as it should."

Brown expects to score a victory in the legislation in regards to surprise medical bills. He said there is support among the negotiators to include language protecting people from such bills. "Then the dollars saved from that will go into helping pay for colorectal screenings that too many people, when they go for a colorectal screening, their insurance pays for the screening, then they find some kind of a cancer cell and then the insurance doesn't pay for removal of it. So we we think we fixed that. We have almost total agreement in the conference committee. We think we can get that across the finish line."