Blue Dogs Call on House, Senate Leadership to Restart COVID-19 Relief Negotiations, Include Bipartisan Priorities in Legislation

Aug 21, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON—Today, members of the Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to restart bipartisan negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package to address the current public health and economic crisis. Additionally, the Blue Dogs urge leadership to include a set of priorities that have earned bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. These priorities include the following: 1) an extension of unemployment insurance benefits; 2) measures to keep workers tethered to their jobs; 3) support for state, local, and tribal governments, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education; 4) a second round of economic impact payments; and 5) stronger oversight of pandemic response spending.
The letter was signed by all members of Blue Dog Coalition leadership, Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Lou Correa (CA-46), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), and Kurt Schrader (OR-05). Additionally, the following Blue Dog Coalition members signed the letter: Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Rep. Ed Case (HI-01), Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Rep. Charlie Crist (FL-13), Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC-01), Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02), Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-05), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (IL-03), Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-04), Rep. Max Rose (NY-11), Rep. David Scott (GA-13), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02).
See below for the full text:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:
As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis. Although there are meaningful differences between the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act, there is also considerable common ground. In an era of divided government, the reality is that only bipartisan solutions will deliver much-needed support, and that requires principled compromise by both parties.
We believe the following priorities—among others—can obtain bipartisan support, and we urge you to include them in the next legislative package:
  1. Extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits: The number of Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who rely on UI benefits is staggering.  This weekly benefit should be extended to enable beneficiaries to provide for their families and to support their local economies. 
  1. Measures to keep workers connected to their jobs: Both the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act expand the employee retention tax credit (ERTC) established in the CARES Act. We urge continued support for this bipartisan provision, which will enable millions of businesses to keep tens of millions of workers tethered to their jobs and to their employer-sponsored health care. Additionally, we urge support for H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, a bipartisan bill that provides for the Small Business Administration to guarantee loans made to certain businesses affected by COVID-19.
  1. Support for state, local, and tribal governments; K-12 schools; and institutions of higher education:  It is imperative that we provide additional financial support to state, local, and tribal governments. They serve on the frontline of our national response to this pandemic. Absent fair federal funding, state, local, and tribal governments will have no choice but to make painful budget cuts to key services like police and fire departments, or to raise taxes for already-struggling families and businesses. In addition, we are pleased there is bipartisan, bicameral support for robust additional funding to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. We urge that such funding be provided without unreasonable conditions.
  1. A second round of economic impact payments: Both the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act provide for a second round of economic impact payments, which have been a lifeline for many of our constituents, and it is clear we can swiftly forge a compromise with respect to the value of payments and eligibility for payments. 
  1. Stronger oversight of COVID spending: We reiterate our call for stronger spending oversight measures in order to protect taxpayer dollars. During this pandemic, every federal dollar wasted is a dollar less to support our health care system, our workers, and our businesses. Protecting taxpayer money should be the ultimate bipartisan cause.
Our constituents sent us to Congress to find bipartisan solutions that move this country forward. The current stalemate is punishing families and destabilizing our economy. Congress must do all that it can to keep workers tethered to their jobs, assist the unemployed, support our health care workers and our health care system, and ensure that businesses who do right by their workers are given the necessary resources and protections to survive. We must keep negotiating, no matter how difficult. Inaction is not an option.