Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday that Senate Republicans are “so damn stupid” for not passing a $3 trillion coronavirus bill approved last month by House Democrats.
The 1,800-page Democratic package was derided by Republicans as a “messaging bill” because it was unilaterally drafted, unlike four prior coronavirus packages that were the result of lengthy negotiations.
“It passed through the House,” Biden said. “Get state and local governments the funding they need to keep millions of people on the job. Because, here’s the — they’re so damn stupid, darn stupid. If you don’t have people on the job dealing with controlling the virus, then it’s just going to get worse.”
The former vice president’s remarks to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) were first reported by The Hill.
“[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have been pushing hard as hell to fund local communities,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is that every town you work in … they have a budget and they cannot deficit spend. The only operation in the world that can do that is the federal government.”
Some Democrats acknowledged that the bill, which passed in May, was merely an opening pitch for negotiations. The bill would give nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments, create a $200 billion “heroes fund” with hazard pay for medical workers, allocate $175 billion to rent and mortgage aid and spend $75 billion on virus testing and contact tracing.
The bill also would authorize another round of stimulus checks up to $1,200 and extend the $600-per-week federal boost in unemployment insurance payments through January 2021. The boost currently runs through July.
White House officials expect to begin negotiating on the next coronavirus package in July.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pushing for legislation that includes liability protection as companies reopen from the pandemic that’s sickened more than 2 million Americans and killed more than 114,000.
President Trump wants legislation that includes a temporary payroll tax cut to stimulate the economy, and some Republicans oppose extending a boost in unemployment pay, saying that would incentivize people not to work.
After passing the fourth major coronavirus package in March, Republicans said they wanted to pause for reflection and criticized proposed state bailouts. A $670 billion small-business loan program exhausted funds more slowly than anticipated and a stock market rebound coupled with declining unemployment eased pressure to pass another bill.